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04 July 2007


Larry: what is it about wasps and guilt? A few weeks ago, they built a nest on the gutter of my garage. The neighbor boy Graham, who is 8, said to me while he played catch with his father and his two younger siblings, “You have a wasp’s nest on your garage.” “Yeah, isn’t it cool?” I said. I walked over to examine it. It was beautiful, intricate as an ash log before it has crumbled into the fire’s fierce heat. Two days later, when Graham’s father was at work, Graham was out alone while I was watering my plants. He said to me, “you still have wasps. My dad knocked the nest down yesterday, but the wasps are building another one.” He spoke with the conviction of an old testament prophet. “Okay, thanks for telling me,” I said sheepishly. It dawned on me that to admire the nest for its aesthetics instead of destroying it was the exact wrong thing to do in this tightly populated suburb, next to a hardworking couple with three small children. Why had I not taken the hint when he mentioned it the first time with is father there? All I could think was what an irresponsible and insensitive neighbor I was. The guilt lasted as least as long as a sting. Maybe longer.

Chris Wemmer

Well, those social wasps can be troublesome and they do sting like hell, but you can redeem yourself before the BD God by building a wasp farm for solitary wasps, as described by the great wasp biologist Howard Ensign Evans (in "Wasp Farm"). I used to make them for eco-friendly friends, and it was jolly good fun showing the neighbors the rows of narcotized caterpillars under the glass as the wasp larvae munched away. Then I would say, "It sure is nice to see those caterpillars here, rather than in the vegetable garden."


Ah, the joys of living in an urban environment and trying to co-exist with wasps, tent caterpillars, cutworms, squirrels, raccoons, skunks and gophers. I once made the mistake of collecting my neighbour's empty wooden grape crates and leaving them on the back deck ... the wasps were none-too-happy when I tried shooing them away so I could take the crates inside to paint.


Debbie and Kate, thanks for the stories. And Chris, thanks for the suggestion.

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