Death in the Afternoon

Muriel from BlogSpring is my favorite time of year — a promise of things to come. Like all promises, it isn’t always kept, but like a five-year-old, I keep believing this time my little balcony garden will thrive. So, two sunny days in a row and I was already cleaning up winter’s debris, checking on my struggling garlic planted in the fall, seeing which herbs barely survived, and putting in beans, peas and kale. “It’s too soon!” my more pragmatic friend warned, but I didn’t care. I wanted to be out there before the wasps arrive. (I’m a delicate flower —  allergic to their sting.) As for them, they LOVE it here. I’m convinced they’ve passed the word around to all their friends about how great I taste, and they’re also very angry with me.

Wasps love it here

Wasps love it here

Here I must confess, I’m responsible for the death of hundreds of wasps! Not “WASPS” (Women Airforce Service Pilots) or “WASPS” (White Anglo-Saxon Protestants), but wasps, the stinging, mean guys who are now apparently out to get back at me. How did this happen?

"WASPS" Women Airforce Service Pilots

“WASPS”
Women Airforce Service Pilots

I was innocently, diligently working away at my computer, when I glanced out my office window to drink in the glory of the mountains. There was this smooth, round, light-brown, globular-shaped structure about the size of a large grapefruit hanging

A wasp nest with entrance on the bottom

A wasp nest with entrance on the bottom

perfectly-centered and straight down from our building’s over-hang. Strange, I thought, I never noticed it before. I wondered why it was there and what its function was.

Like a female Sherlock Holmes investigating a mystery, I perused it with care, and, upon closer inspection, noted activity — much activity. Traipsing in and out of the entrance at the very bottom of the beautiful dome, for beautiful it was, were numerous tiny, busy creatures. Aliens? No, nothing that dramatic.

They were wasps, wasps with stingers! Hundreds and hundreds of them flying in and out their basement door. “Aha!” I declared aloud to the empty room, for Watson wasn’t here. “This smooth, round, light-brown, globular-shaped structure about the size of a large grapefruit hanging perfectly-centered and straight down from our building’s overhang clearly seems to be a — wasp nest!”

Was I scared? Did I panic? No! I was safely indoors

Was I scared? Did I panic? No! I was safely indoors

Did I panic? Did I cry out in fright? Did I scream for help? Did you hear me? Of course not! Sure, I am allergic to their sting, but they were outside and I was safely inside, so I was able to be courageous. The industry of the little devils was fascinating. My computer’s screen-saver had to kick in while I spent the next hour or so observing the goings-on out there. What an interesting thing to have so close to my window. I liked it!

“Well, if you find it so beautiful and interesting,” said the gal (somewhat incredulously) at our building’s management office over the phone when I called “Perhaps you’d like to keep it for a few days before I order an exterminator out.”

Was she kidding? Some years ago, after a wasp sting, my arm developed a plateau-like, angry, painful, red welt, which three weeks later grew larger, hotter, angrier, redder, even more painful and itchier. Medication was required to calm things down. No way! Fascinating as it was, the nest would have to go.

Wasp circular hotel rooms within nest

Wasp circular hotel rooms within nest

A calm, business-like exterminator arrived next afternoon, canister and long metal tube in tow. He sprayed right into the wasp “Home-Sweet-Home”. The displaced creatures flew about in a tizzy, hither and yon, while chunks of their beautiful nest collapsed and fell away, at first leaving the circular inner structure of hotel-rooms, built around a perfectly round elevator-like shaft, exposed.

The circular stairwell at the Hotel D'Alsace in Paris where Oscar Wilde spent his last days

The circular stairwell at the Hotel D’Alsace in Paris where Oscar Wilde spent his last days

It reminded me of the Hotel D’Alsace I’d visited in Paris, where Oscar Wilde spent his last days. I still remember looking up at that circular staircase that goes up and up and up….

Oscar Wilde, who died at the Hotel D'Alsace in Paris

Oscar Wilde, who died at the Hotel D’Alsace in Paris

Still safely indoors, I peered into those wasp hotel rooms, wondering if I might observe any improprieties in progress, but any amorous activities taking place had already been rudely interrupted, so I cannot tell you anything new about the birds and the wasps.

The exterminator looked at his work and saw that it was good. “When the wasps stop coming back in a day or two, you can knock the rest of it down.” he announced and left, not at all troubled by the murder and mayhem we two had planned and carried out.

In relating this grisly tale to friends, I found some confusion existed as to the social structure of wasp society. Some friends thought wasps, like bees, have a queen, others thought the life of a wasp was totally different. My encyclopedia said they are both right since there are so many species of wasps. The nest building kind apparently do have a queen.

Does that mean I’ve committed regicide???

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2 thoughts on “Death in the Afternoon

  1. As usual Muriel I love your wasp adventure. Dis you know that fake wasp nests are available at a hardware store–similar to a brown paper bag–and when hung up the wasps stay away thinking it is some other wasps nest. Cheers, Betty

  2. Alas, wasps are pollinators too! You’d get more beans, peas, tomatoes – anything that flowers – if you could make friends with the wasps. Usually, if any kind of flying, buzzing critter lands on me, I find blowing a steady air current in the direction I want them to go (ie, anywhere but my arm, please) usually sends them on their way. But I understand the allergy thing – is it something an epipen might work for???)
    ‘Way too early for beans but my peas are 6″ tall; I need to get the net up soon. & I’ve been eating lettuce off my balcony for a couple of weeks now. It’s a WC Seeds variety, I think it’s called Rouge d’Hiver. I got the seeds from the WC Youth Alliance at car free day last year, but David Hunter might have them.

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