Of Wasps, Carpenter Bees, and Coexistance
The rises high above
And out we scurry to meet the day
Grabbing our tools and paint
With sweltering heat
And muggy humidity
The going’s rough
And our efforts are rewarded
But not with completion of our task
Instead with views and wonders
We wouldn’t ordinarily see
Surrounded by wilderness
Hawks fighting in the sky
And hunting in the trees
Screaming their claim to the world
Wasps building their nests
And protecting what’s theirs
Raiding the hives of bees
Squirrels play amongst the branches
Falling, flying, twisting,
So many lives living in tangent
Connected and dependent on each other
Living, loving, protecting, dying
As many of you know Hope (my housemate and friend) and I have spent the last few days painting the house getting it prepped for sale. It was an interesting, and often painful, little venture. But painting the house is not what I wish to talk to you all about today. I would rather talk to you about the lessons we learned and what we learned about each other in the process.
First comes the subject of wasps. Our home is covered in wasps and wasp nests. For obvious reasons this made painting difficult. Hope is a wonderful friend, and back when we last lived together, very practical and efficient. Living in this house, where nature often invades the interior and our home is also home to hundreds of cockroaches, dozens of spiders, quite a few lizards, and a couple of frogs, has changed her perspective I think. We’ve become used to coexisting with other living things. So when it came time to paint the house there was a question of how to safely deal with the wasps. For most people the answer would obvious and hardly worthy of debate. Kill them. We had the spray to do it and it was certainly very effective (my dad uses it all the time), but we didn’t. Wasps are potentially dangerous creatures, especially to Hope who has a lot allergies and our terribly unhealthy dog who has even more allergies, but that isn’t a good enough to kill them on sight.
We developed a system of containment and removal of the nests, that while likely traumatic to the wasps and possibly lethal to the larvae, did not harm the adult wasps. It was a very sophisticated system involving a glass cup and a thick bit of junk mail. It wasn’t very difficult or even very time consuming; it just took a moment of empathy and mercy. We even made a friend by the end, a female black and yellow mud dauber (a type of wasp) who kept us company as we painted. She was making a nest in the brink and she actually seemed to “sing’ as she worked.
There are other “pests” in our house. Namely, carpenter bees. They live in the wood of our porch, they’re large bumblebee like creatures and are really quite cute. Most people kill them too, because they’re damaging to the wood. That may be true, but they’ve never given us any trouble nor have we seen any excessive damage done. We leave them be and they provide us entertainment with their aerial turf wars. In fact we have our own little ecosystem since the wasps routinely raid the carpenter bees. So by allowing the wasps to live with us they control the carpenter bees. It’s almost as if nature balances itself without human intervention.
Insects are a much maligned group of animals. In truth though they literally keep our world running. The world’s ecosystem would collapse, possible beyond repair, without them. Just ask the Chinese, they exterminated all their bees, now they have to pollinate all their crops by hand. A very time and financially demanding process. I’ll also tell you a little secret of me, of all the animal groups in the world, insects frighten me the most. Not emotionally, I regularly handle a wide variety of insects and have no problem with that, but on a mental level. Insects are brutally efficient. Of all the animal groups they are the most like us. They create massive societies, build extensive “cities”, they have wars, they have domesticated “livestock”, they have jobs, they garden, they transform the areas they live in, and they make slaves of other races. Only I’m pretty sure they’re better at it all. If the social insects were a little bigger, I think they would be the ones exterminating us.
However; potential insect world domination is not the point of this post. My point is that coexistence is possible and it works. Just because an animal has the potential to be dangerous doesn’t mean it should be exterminated. Your neighbor is more potentially dangerous to you and your family than a wasp hive is. Statistically speaking, your own family members are much, much more dangerous to you (if you’re female) and your children (no matter the gender) than just about anything else. If you treat your animal neighbors with respect and compassion you can learn a lot about the world and even make new friends. With animals if you leave them alone they will often leave you alone. Today I challenge you to try and make peace with your non-human neighbors.
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