Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Living With Wasps

When I moved to Spirit Creek Farm, I was so thankful for the privilege to be out of the city and into "the country", that I tried my best to not kill anything - even wasps.

It was my mother's wise counsel to not be afraid of wasps that certainly helped me remain calm around wasps and yellow jackets and other stinging communities. When I was a child, Mom told me wasps would not hurt me as long as I did not disturb them, and she was right.

When my barn was first built, it attracted wasps and mud-daubers. Its bright white walls rising above the prairie must surely have appeared as a glowing alien oasis, perfect for colonization. I never swatted at any wasp while at the barn. If one came close to me, I always directed thoughts of peace toward it, just in case.

One day I roughly pulled down a hay bale, one that was stacked shoulder high, exposing a paper nest of wasps a few inches from my face. I jumped back in alarm because the nest was covered with wasps and the sudden exposure stirred them up. None attacked me, and most of them settled back on their nest protectively. A few continued to circle above the nest. I slowly moved away and for the rest of the summer I pulled hay from the other side of the stack.

Since the nest was attached to the barn wall, I had a chance to observe the wasps at least twice a day when I fed Ginger, my horse. I did not want to risk bumping the nest with another hay bale, but I did pull one a bit closer to offer at least some shade to the nest. I also sent the intention of peace toward them as I approached each day.

I noticed that the adults on the nest would, in concert, lower their bodies protectively over the nest if I made any movement toward it. When I first exposed the nest, there were maybe two dozen wasps on the nest and flying close to it. As the summer progressed, the number of wasps tending the nest slowly decreased. As their numbers declined, rather than any flying, all would land on the nest in an effort to protect it with their bodies. There were fewer and fewer until one day there were no wasps at all. I supposed that birds ate some of them and some must have died of old age, though I had no idea of the lifespan of a wasp.

I never noticed any cells in their intriguing paper nest newly opened so I do not think the colony reproduced that season. Maybe it was because once the bale was gone, the sunlight shone directly on the nest for most of every morning. I was a bit sad that all of their work had gone for nothing. The next year I tore down the empty nest.

I thanked them every day for not stinging me. Their brave attempts to protect their helpless young touched me. The world is a dangerous place for wasps and humans alike. Wherever possible, it is good to live in peace.

1 comment:

Li'l Ned said...

I loved reading your thoughts and reactions to this nest. I have been told by professional 'pest-control' guys that paper, mud-dauber and other wasps are normally quite mild-tempered and nonaggressive, and that has been my experience as well. Like you, I make a conscious effort to approach known nesting sites with a calm mind and heart, thankful for the opportunity to observe and live alongside these beings, that you describe so beautifully in this post. Of course this goes to all forays out into the natural world. I find that having less going 'out' (fear, hurriedness, preconceptions, etc) allows me to let more 'in' ..........