As malevolent creatures go, the wasp is one who strikes fear in the hearts of even some of the toughest hombres I know. Frothing pit bulls and Rottweilers have nothing on the tiny wasp when it comes to getting a 200-pound man running and screaming like a character in a bad slasher film.
I’ve often wondered what the good Lord was thinking while designing the wasp. Maybe just that it was going to look really freaky and still cause less damage than T-rex — clearly an example of unlimited creative powers run amok. As for the wasp, well, I’m still trying to figure out exactly why we need them.
If you’re wondering why I’m waxing philosophical over this insect of the Hymenoptera order, it’s because I have a bit of a wasp problem at home. I’m pretty sure I’m currently at war with the wasps.
While moving into my home almost a year ago, I noticed immediately there was more than average wasp activity around the yard. Particularly in the garage, “dirt daubers” had taken a liking to the stifling heat inside and built little mud apartments all over the place. More traditional wasp architecture was also displayed along the eaves all around our home.
But I didn’t view this as necessarily a problem. In fact, I really thought of it more as a “wasp opportunity,” or “waspportunity,” if you will.
For some time I’ve toyed with the idea of raising wasps recreationally. You know how it’s become totally hip to have bees and harvest your own honey, even if all this beekeeping activity goes on right in the middle of a crowded neighborhood? So why not do the same with wasps?
I mean, bees sting people too, but that’s OK because they make honey. My thinking was it might be kind of cool to get one of those beekeeper outfits and start raising lots of wasps in the backyard, primarily as a way of keeping strangers and door-to-door evangelists from stopping by. Plus, I just want to see the look on people’s faces when they see me in the outfit and start hinting around about getting some free honey.
“I don’t keep bees! I’m a waspkeeper!” I’d snap. “I’ll be happy to show you the wasp hive if you’d like, although they’re not really fond of people staring at them. Stay here and I’ll go get you folks a jar of my homemade wasp jelly.” I’ll admit it seems like more of a postretirement, grouchy-old-man type of hobby.
In light of these interests, I’ve tried for the most part to approach the wasps with a live-and-let-live attitude over the past year, hoping they would come to love and respect me.
There was the incident where they had set up a rather large community inside the basketball goal and would angrily swarm every time the kids took a shot. That required explaining to the wasps the concepts of eminent domain, manifest destiny and Raid Wasp and Hornet spray.
The garage is where our peace accord was really put to the test. The treadmill is out there and in order to stay incredibly ripped, I spend several mornings a week “power walking” in a way that would bring well-deserved derision were it done along the streets of our fair burg. As previously mentioned, though, the wasps are also pretty fond of hanging out in the garage.
So we’ve had an agreement — they can fly around the garage doing whatever it is they’re doing, as long as they don’t invade my airspace or make me jump, dodge or run out of the room. On the occasions when some hotshot wasp thinks he’s Maverick in an insect version of “Top Gun” and heads in for a flyby, I’m within my rights to hit him with a broom. And we’ve lived this way for many months with little bloodshed and zero stings.
But I should have known it was too much temptation for the wasps. After all, pretty much all they like to do is sting things and build ugly houses. It’s in their DNA. And as much as I stick up for them, they really can’t be trusted.
A couple of years ago my daughter was freaking out because there was a wasp on the ceiling at our old house. The house had 20-foot ceilings and I told Ursula, “Stop worrying! He’s not going to bother anyone.” Even as the last echoes of the word “anyone” were still bouncing off the wall, the wasp flew straight down and stung me on the arm. So they drew first blood, so to speak.
On Saturday, the garage wasps went too far, flying all around me in a hostile way and causing me to break my broom swatting at them. I went for the Raid and juiced their homes up in a post-noon sneak attack Sunday. But they weren’t taking it lying down.
A few hours later, as I walked out the back door, it suddenly felt like I’d been shot in the back of the neck. I knew immediately it was the work of a suicide wasp and ran inside to rub baking powder all over the back of my neck and begin enjoying the onset of hypochondria. However, once the imagined anaphylactic shock and worries of quadriplegia subsided, I went back outside with the Raid and hosed down the burgeoning little wasp commune I hadn’t noticed right above my grill. It was an insect version of the My Lai Massacre.
This morning in the garage a lone wasp took a pass at me and I tried to hit him with an old mop, but he escaped. So the garage is no longer safe. I write this with the welt on the back of my neck reminding me I now live in a war zone. My poor wife, kids and dogs aren’t even aware of how bad things have gotten, mostly because I’m afraid I’ll be unfairly blamed for letting wasps build nests all around our home.
But I’m not the only casualty so far. Ursula was bitten by ants yesterday and when I checked, sure enough, they’re in the same suborder — Apocrita — as wasps. If the wasps are calling in family members, we could be fighting ants, yellow jackets, hornets and bees, just to name a few of the wasp’s 150,000 types of stinging/biting relatives.
The dream of raising wasps is over and it’s probably going to be a hectic next few days running from the car to the house while waving my arms over my head. But hopefully by the weekend I’ll have a pact in place with the spiders and this will be over.