Ever want to hold on to a moment in time? Of course we do, but we can’t. Time marches on—something two wasp nests taught me.
“To everything, there is a season…” That line from the Bible was also a hit song for The Byrds in 1965, if you remember that far back, like I do. And it applies to the wasp nest that changed my summer of 2020.
I’ve been thinking about it, and about other issues I didn’t used to ponder when I suppose I was just kind of clueless. I mean, “If I knew then what I know now,” right? Young? Yes. Foolish? I hope not. Unconcerned? I just didn’t think about the bigger picture.
There’s no reason to just kill anything. A life taken is one that can’t be taken back, no matter the creature, which in this case, was paper wasps. I’ve come to understand the value of wasps to the environment and to me. That’s part of what two wasp nests taught me.
I was stung twice by wasps as a 5-year-old in the mountains of North Carolina, and I had bad reactions. But I haven’t been stung since and that was one very long time ago. Wasps just didn’t figure into my life, other than I ducked when one whizzed over my head.
Those wasps lived
So about this most recent wasp nest. It was the second one that paper wasps—one of 22 wasp species—built in my covered patio. In 2019, just a few of them took up residency in one of my round, Chinese paper lanterns hung from the ceiling. I bought an insecticide, and sprayed it on the nest. I didn’t pay attention to the warnings about poison I was putting into the air.
Lo and behold: Those wasps survived, and I decided that summer I would let them be. For the first time I thought: Why did I want to kill them? They never bothered me.
When fall came, and temperatures dropped, they left the nest, and I gently pulled it out of the lantern, threw it away, and said silently, “Goodbye, wasps. See you next year?”
Well, right on schedule, spring sprang in SoCal 2020, and sure enough, one day I looked up at the corner of the patio cover and Voila! Wasps! They were madly crafting a new nest from dead wood fibers and their saliva, laying down the basic “glue” for it to stick, then weaving the intricate combs as fast as they could go. They were on a mission.
My wasp-welcoming home
I wondered what it was about MY patio that was so wasp-friendly. And I decided to leave them alone. I had to remove three from my house during the summer; I couldn’t blame them for being curious and they didn’t bother me. My insect-saving technique is a glass and a piece of white copy paper: Works great!
My rationale was this. They didn’t hurt me last year. They don’t want to sting people, but like a rattlesnake, if people accidently invade their space, a sting might be inevitable. I watched their graceful flights, almost like ballet dancers, legs dangling below them, as they lit out of the nest and over the wall and out to do what wasps do. They prey on other insects considered to be pests.
We need these wasps: Wasps are also very important pollinators and they help the environment. But, they are much less efficient at pollinating flowers, because pollen doesn’t stick to their bodies well, and thus can’t be moved from flower to flower, biologists say.
Their time came once again
The nest got bigger, wasps made more wasps, and then as nights began to chill, activity diminished. I assumed Nature was doing her thing. I found two dead on the patio floor, and as weeks passed, I knew the others in the nest had died, too. And then one day in late October, there were no more. Like us, wasps don’t live forever.
Last week, I grabbed a stepladder and took the nest down. Let me tell you, the substance they use to “glue” that nest stem is like concrete. It was almost impossible to remove: Maybe they know we’re prone to earthquakes here…
I’m sorry I tried to kill them in 2019. I won’t do that again. To everything (almost), there is also a purpose. Maybe theirs was to teach me yet another lesson about the value of life. Wasp season is almost here, and I can’t wait to see where they choose to set up shop in 2021.
That’s what two wasp nests taught me.