The lesson of the wasp

Photo by Dreemreeper
Photo by Dreemreeper

I am sorry to say that I am one of those women who screams and flails when a wasp or bee flies near. I whimper too.

On Saturday, for the first time in years, I got stung. The irony of it was that there was no flailing or screaming beforehand. Indeed, I only noticed a wasp had landed on my finger when I felt the sting.

It was at the Quayside Festival, and I had been looking at the bric-a-brac on a table when something tickled my pinky finger. I scratched the itch and – ow! A kindly old woman heard me exclaim that I had been stung and asked if I had an allergy (no, thank goodness). My toddler heard me, and calmly informed me that the wasp had stung his little finger too (uh huh).

Even as I muttered and cursed at the wasp I had to admit that it really wasn’t that bad. I thought about all the times I had given up eating outside because of the dreaded threat of wasp stings, and the ridiculous little routine of eeeeking and running away should a wasp come near. I put so much into fearing the wasp and yet the little bugger found me when I least expected it.

So what is the lesson? I think there’s more than one.

  1. Anticipated pain is imagined to be far worse than the real thing
  2. There is no escaping some pains. Sometimes bad things just happen.
  3. Wasps suck.

As part of my attempt to see the philosophical side of wasp stings, I decided to take the opportunity to get to know the little pests better. To my chagrin, within the first few seconds of scanning the Wikipedia entry on wasps, I find some good reasons to give these bugs a little respect:

Wasps are critically important in natural biocontrol. Almost every pest insect species has at least one wasp species that is a predator or parasite upon it. Parasitic wasps are also increasingly used in agricultural pest control as they have little impact on crops. Wasps also constitute an important part of the food chain.

– Wikipedia

And therein lies the last moral of my little story: everyone has a good side. Even a nasty mean ‘ol wasp.

5 Replies to “The lesson of the wasp”

  1. Funny and prescient… I’m up here in Roberts’ Creek with an Aussie and a Persian. Naturally stories of various painful and aggressive animals/insects come up in regular conversation. Between the dahlia spiders (three sightings today alone) and the black-sided hornet’s nest we found in the garden yesterday, I think the anticipation of pain is at a fever pitch!

    I wondered this week whether I’d been stung by a bee as my left first and second knuckle swelled up and became incredibly itchy and red by the second. Must not have been but as the swelling went down the spot with three punctures was revealed… but what was the bite from?

    Moral of the story:
    1) be asleep when bitten
    2) don’t think about being bitten while asleep too much or it will preclude sleep
    3) don’t look up insects on the internet.

  2. When I was a teen I was helping a friend clean out his backyard, which really was in a state. When moving a pile of railroad ties, we uncovered the lair of some singularly mean-spirited wasps. They were yellowjackets (that always sounded like a street gang name to me…) Sure, I had uncovered their home and threatened their young. But,it was a misunderstanding! Not being the reasonable type, they decided to sting five shades of shinola out of me.

    The stings hurt, but weren’t too bad. I got some on my arms and hands, and again, I suppose I deserved it. I was a threat to their home. Fair enough. My debt was paid to them.

    Finally, they stopped and flew away, and about ten minutes passed. I stood their thinking that we’d got off lightly, when I felt the most tremendous pain I’d ever felt in my young life. One of them came back for one last sting, just out of spite – in the fleshy part of the small of my back.

    It was a cheap shot, and in my mind an act of war.

    I make a point of not trying to kill anything. I don’t like arachnids much either. Yet, I tend to try and escort them off the premises, rather than sending them to spider-heaven. But, if a wasp comes in my house, I hunt it and kill it and feel no remorse.

    It’s insect control, Old Testament style when it comes to those stripey beggars!

    Thanks for the post!

  3. Weird — I was stung by a wasp yesterday on my pinky finger! Same deal… felt a tickle, but instead of waving it away or itching it, I made the mistake of contracting my hand because I thought I was losing grip on my dog’s leash. Which, in turn, lead to the sting, an expletive shouted, and a dropped leash anyway.

    The initial sting hurt a lot but it was more of the startle factor that bothered me. Some “After Bite”, a fudgsicle, and an epsiode of Mythbusters set me right.

  4. I don’t want to know what will happen next time & have at least 1 anti-allergy pill in my red bag when I go to the pool.

    The last time, the area on my right cheek (the one where “the sun don’t shine”) grew to 6-8 inches wide – red, hot, hard, hurting. More than 2x as big as the 2nd last time. I don’t want this to happen near my throat…

    Now I’m going to try making a trick wasp nest with a brown paper bag, hoping it will make them stop coming into our dining room, etc. – on the 8th floor BTW!

  5. Lesson one is well taken! How distracting worry can be, at the very times when presence is the key to unlocking solutions.

    As a kid I once rolled a discarded car tire onto a dock at the lake, and when it teetered over it was on top of a wasp’s nest built under the dock. I still remember the slow-motion moment when the swarm began to filter out from between the cracks of the dock’s surface. The next few minutes are a blur as I ran back to shore screaming and finally found the family car, having endured half a dozen or so stings to the neck and face.

    If I had stepped off the side of the dock into the lake I imagine I could have swum far enough below the surface to lose the swarm. Hindsight is 20/20, but it makes me wonder how much suffering could be prevented with presence of mind.

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