Mail carriers have always had to contend with a number of unpredictable factors on the job like inclement weather and overeager dogs, but there's another obstacle you may not have thought of: pesky insects hiding inside your mailbox.
A viral Reddit post recently called attention to this delivery dilemma and suggested an unlikely solution: dryer sheets.
Chris Strickley, the man behind the Reddit post, has been a mail carrier for nearly six years and has caused quite a stir after suggesting that a simple dryer sheet can prevent insects like wasps and yellowjackets from nesting inside mailboxes and causing a world of problems for mail carriers.
Strickley wrote that mailboxes provide "nice, easy shelter for (wasps and yellowjackets)" when the weather is warm during the day but chilly at night.
"I can’t tell you how many times, especially during this part of the year, where I’ve opened up a box to see a little nest with 3-5 Yellowjackets just chillin. If I’m really unlucky, they will have made their nest at the very back of the box so I wind up sticking my hand in not knowing they are there," the 31-year-old wrote in his post, revealing that he was stung 10 separate times in the last year.
- Take our poll: Have you ever spotted a dryer sheet in your mailbox before?
Strickley, who began his career with the U.S. Postal Service in eastern Oregon before transferring to Idaho five years ago, told TODAY that he first came up with the idea of adding a dryer sheet to a mailbox during his first year on the job.
- Watch TODAY All Day! Get the best news, information and inspiration from TODAY, all day long.
- Sign up for the TODAY Newsletter!
"I began to see dryer sheets in people’s mailboxes at the start of spring. At first I was confused but just left them in there. Later on, I noticed my supervisor had a box of them on their desk and would see other carriers taking handfuls out. That’s when I finally asked why they were supplying them to us and found out they are a good deterrent for wasps and yellowjackets. Ever since then, they’re a normal part of my spring and summer," he said.
Strickley explained that wasps and yellowjackets hate the scent of dryer sheets and said whenever he encounters a problematic mailbox that tends to attract the pests, he'll pop a sheet inside. He also urged people to leave any sheets in their mailbox if they come across one for the sake of their mail carrier.
"So please, if you one day randomly see a dryer sheet at the back of your mailbox, just know that your carrier more than likely put it there to deter these Satanic creatures from building their home in it," he wrote in his post.
Strickley said that you can choose any brand you'd like, adding that "any scented dryer sheet should suffice!" He also cautioned that it's not safe to add the sheet in after finding a nest. The Reddit user ended the post by explaining that you might have to occasionally replace the sheet once it loses its scent.
Mind-blowing right? TODAY was curious to know if dryer sheets are a widely-used solution for mailbox nests or if this is just a genius solution that one mail carrier has, so we reached out to the Postal Service for confirmation. Unfortunately, it looks like the trick is more of an underground solution that some mail carriers have developed on their own.
"The social media post you are referring to is not a specific instruction or directive from the Postal Service," a spokesperson said in an emailed statement to TODAY. "There is guidance in our safety regulations that cover how to handle insects. The guidance includes, but is not limited to: reporting hazards to a supervisor (i.e., hornet, wasp, and bee nests) so they can be removed by the property owner; using insect repellant as needed/when appropriate; avoid wearing perfume or other scented products; watch eating and drinking outdoors, especially with sweetened drinks as this attracts bees and other insects."
The spokesperson also explained that mail carriers are instructed to look out for all sorts of nests and insects flying around flowering plants.
Sonja L. Swiger, an entomology expert and associate professor at Texas A&M University told TODAY that she's never seen official research showing that dryer sheets can deter any insects, but said it's possible it could still work.
"The science does not add up and it would seem that if this was a viable option there would be more discussion on it. Now this does not mean that it has not deterred wasps or yellowjackets at some point; it just means that research has not been able to definitively rule it as effective," she said.
Even if it's not an officially sanctioned solution, some social media users have put dryer sheets to the test to deal with their insect issues over the years. In 2019, Facebook user Staci Hoppes posted a photo of a dryer sheet she put in her mailbox to tackle an ant issue she'd encountered. TODAY followed up with her to see if she's had any luck with the unconventional trick ever since, and she said she's tried it on multiple occasions.
"I use it mainly when I start seeing any issue with ants and it seems to take care of the problem rather quickly. I haven’t really had a problem with anything other than the ants so I’m not completely sure but I’ve not noticed any other bugs around while the dryer sheets are in there!" she said.
It's worth a try, right?