Posts Tagged With: wasps

To Swat or Not to Swat?

Supposedly, in some cultures, there is a belief that if you save someone’s life you then become responsible for that person. I did extensive research (five whole minutes with Google) and didn’t find any evidence that this is actually true.

Which makes sense, since the whole idea seems backwards. Wouldn’t it make more sense to have it the other way around? The savee, after all, is the one owing a debt to the saver. Not to mention that potential rescuers might be discouraged from saving anyone’s life in the first place, given the potential long-term consequences.

But my real question at the moment is whether this tradition, if it even exists, applies to non-human species. Insects, specifically.

Every fall, when the weather gets cold, we have a mild invasion of wasps. They either migrate inside to keep from freezing to death, or they emerge—and this is not a happy thought—from wherever they have been living inside the walls.

A few weeks ago, when temperatures were falling below zero, one of these wasps took up residence in the kitchen sink. Not the smartest place to settle. For one thing, the stainless steel got so cold overnight that the wasp was too numb to move by morning. Besides, a sink is a place where water can gush forth at random intervals and unpredictable temperatures. Innocent insects are at constant risk of being plunged into a maelstrom that will take them down the drain to a watery death.

I rescued this particular wasp at least twice, plucking it out of the sink before I committed the potentially lethal act of washing dishes. After that, while it tended to stay out of the sink, it still made a nuisance of itself by crawling around on the counter or perching on the faucet. The fact that it didn’t ever sting me in a moment of ungratefulness was due solely to my being careful not to accidentally put my hand on it.

The critter was annoying. I really didn’t want it around. Still, since I had saved its life, I couldn’t bring myself to swat it or toss it outside to perish in the cold. It would have been too much like healing a convicted murderer’s life-threatening illness in order to have him healthy enough to walk to the electric chair. I just couldn’t handle the irony.

So I put up with its presence for several days, moving dishes around it and checking to make sure it wasn’t lurking in the sink before I turned on the water.

Then Monday came. And with it, the wonderful woman who cleans our house every other week. She hates wasps. Unlike me, she had no relationship with this one.

I was conveniently out of the house while she was cleaning. (Yes, as a matter of fact, I can spell “plausible deniability.”)

When I came back, the house was clean. The kitchen counter was polished. The sink was gleaming.

And the wasp, by strange coincidence, was nowhere to be seen.

Categories: Wild Things | Tags: | 2 Comments

Fall and Flying Objects

Why do so many more jet trails show up in the sky this time of year? I'm sure there's a good scientific explanation based on such factors as air temperatures and winds aloft, the refraction of the light based on the angle of the sun, and other things about which I don't have a clue.

I could look it up, I suppose, or ask someone who took more science classes than I did and probably paid more attention during them. Or I could just enjoy the patterns of the white streaks against the blue autumn skies, and let it go at that.

It's been a beautiful fall in the Black Hills this year, and we've appreciated it all the more because last year we didn't really get one. October started out with snow and bitter cold, which caught many of us unprepared in matters of snow tires, storing garden hoses, and getting out flannel sheets. Even worse, it caught the trees while the leaves were still green, so the fall colors consisted of brown, brown, and brown. This year, though, the trees got to dress up in their best yellows, reds, and golds. Mild days and crisp nights allowed the leaves to stay on display for a long time before they let go and flew to the ground.

Autumn also brings some less appealing flying objects. Our house has been full of flies and wasps. As far as I can tell, they hatch out somewhere inside the window sills, where they become trapped between the window and the screen. Sometimes they crawl around in there, buzzing and bumping up against the glass, until some kind soul can't stand their noise any more and opens the window to let them out.

Sometimes they slip under the edge of the screen into the house, where they buzz back and forth until they collapse on the dining room table. There they lie on their backs, legs kicking faintly, buzzing intermittently like a toy whose battery is giving out, until they expire.

I am not unsympathetic. I don't kill these innocent creatures wantonly or maliciously. At the same time, I don't really feel it's my responsibility to rescue them when they crawl across the kitchen faucet, ignoring my efforts to shoo them away, until they slip and fall into the dishwater and drown.

Compassion and understanding, however, were not my first reactions the other day when a wasp got caught in my hair. I could feel it crawling around in there, buzzing frantically much too close to my ear, and after trying to shake it out and brush it out with my fingers I made a dash for the bathroom to grab my hairbrush and brush it out before it stung me.

The other night at bedtime was the last straw. I went into the bathroom to brush my teeth, and there on the floor was the biggest spider I had ever seen. (Well, except for the tarantulas at Reptile Gardens, which don't count as they are safely behind glass instead of in the middle of my bathroom.) This one was huge and thick and black.

For an instant I stood frozen, trying to decide whether to step on the spider, run for the flyswatter, or just screech. That instant gave me a chance to take a closer look at the terrifying critter.

It was a plastic hair clip. Never mind.

Categories: Just For Fun, Wild Things | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

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