Wasp EncounterWhen I was growing up, I used to be terrified of wasps. I thought of them as mean little creatures that were out to get people. The sight of their dangly bodies and long stingers threw such a fright into me that I wanted to cry. Then, one day, I had an encounter that changed my feelings quite a bit. I was a teenager on my way to school, walking down the sidewalk, when I met up with a lone wasp about a block from my destination. It was flying at about heart level, directly towards me. At the point at which it was about two or three feet away, we both saw each other and stopped. There was no confusion, such as might be normal (and humorous) between two people trying to decide who should go to one side and who to the other. After only the briefest pause, I moved to the left, the wasp to the right, and we went on our separate ways. A light went on inside me. AH! Wasps have their own business to attend to. And that doesn't include heckling people just for the sake of it!
Since that time, I'll admit, it has continued to make me a bit nervous whenever wasps have gotten up a bit too close. But I never forget the lesson I learned, and I never panic at just knowing they're in the vicinity. I've even managed to be fairly calm at times when they've decided they had reason to do something like land on me for a moment. One of the most amazing things to me is that it seems wasps may even prefer sometimes to avoid stinging someone with whom they literally have an accidental brush. I found this out the time I felt a tickle on my hand, brushed my skin with my fingers, and felt just the slightest prickle. When I looked, I saw something flying away and landing on the arm of a lawn chair nearby. And there it was, in plain sight, just long enough for me to be absolutely certain of what I was seeing. Apparently, I may have pushed the tip of the stinger into my own skin when I touched my hand. But the wasp was uninjured, seemed to know I meant it no harm, and simply flew off. Before it departed, however, it allowed me to know who it was that I had touched.
One of the valuable things about animals in their own habitat is that they can be a source of useful signals about what is going on around you outdoors. A rabbit is much more likely to hop out and nibble on a snack if everything is safe and calm. You can figure you're probably okay if a rabbit is around wherever you're sitting quietly to read or think. In another way, wasps have been a help to me. Once, my attention was called to the fact that I was being watched from the bushes at a park by a strange man because a wasp came and sat on my shoulder, interrupting my reading. When the wasp left, I was looking up and around me. Thanks to the warning of the wasp, I was able to confront this man and chase him off.
Whenever I find a wasp (or bee or whatever) trapped inside the window in my home, I don't kill it. Instead, I catch it in a jar, slide a piece of paper between the mouth of the jar and the glass to keep the opening covered, put on the lid, and take it outside. There, I release it into freedom. These insects don't intend to get themselves trapped inside people's homes and will calm down somewhat when they realize you're trying to help them. I've never been stung doing this. I just talk to them in a gentle voice, introducing myself and explaining what I'm trying to do. It' takes some patience while they learn to trust, but it works.
You don't need to run right out today and try to hunt up a wasp to kiss on the lips. Just know that they are intelligent, hard working creatures that do, in fact, have feelings and a sense of reason. After all, you can at least be sure that what your mother said to you as a child really is true: "If you don't bother them, they won't bother you."
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