Thursday, August 30, 2007

If You Don't Bother Them...

The wasps are coming into the house again.

I know, I know. It's part of the price of living in an old house. They leak your expensive heat and air-conditioning dollars OUT while leaking bugs, rodents, and the occasional reptile IN.

I didn't mind opening the hall closet a few weeks ago and finding that a snake had crawled down inside the wall and fallen out into the closet where the wall isn't finished. It had probably been living inside the walls for weeks, eating mice and such.

It was just a harmless black rat snake, a breed that I'm told will keep other types of (poisonous) snakes off your property. So I'm all for the black snakes! If they're going to keep the copperheads away, I'm happy to host as many of them on my property as possible. However, I'd rather they didn't live in the house, so this one did need to be relocated outside.

I DO mind our annual winter infestation of ladybugs. They come by the thousands to hibernate in the crevices of the house walls, and invariably a lot of them will meander through the walls and find a way to get into the house.

All winter long, and particularly in the spring when they are starting to wake up and become active again, our windows will be swarming with ladybugs. We vacuum them up, but more just keep appearing. They fly around and crash into your head, they crawl into the bed when you're trying to sleep, they crunch under foot, and they STINK if you touch them.

But worst of all, there are the wasps.

All summer long, I've had a reprieve from them. Earlier this year, Ken had plugged up the hole where we thought they were getting in, and I thought I was done with them for good. Then last week, one appeared in my office. Then another. Now there have been three in the past 24 hours. Uh-oh.


It's always my office where they appear first and most frequently. Occasionally, they'll also show up in my bedroom, which is the next room over.

Now, I tend to be your basic tree-hugging animal lover at heart, so whenever possible, I try to adopt a live-and-let-live policy toward the critters and creepy-crawlies I encounter. When the wasps first started showing up in my office shortly after I moved here, that's how I tried to treat them. With caution and respect.

Unfortunately, the feeling was not mutual.

Once the adventurous wasps had crawled through the labyrinth of the house walls and emerged into my office, they would crash around for a while, apparently looking for the Great Wasp Mecca they'd been told was just inside. When they didn't find it, they'd get really cranky and set out looking for someone to blame.

Since I'm the one who spends many hours of each day in this room, clearly I must be the one at fault. I'd be sitting quietly at my desk, typing an email, and they would make their way across the floor, crawl up my pant leg and sting me!

Not satisfied with this, at night they would pilgrimage all the way into the next room, climb into my bed, and sting me in my sleep!

Believe me when I say that after this happened a few times, I became a little jumpy and suffered from frequent bouts of insomnia!

The worst thing that happened was when I got stung two times just about a week apart. You know how when you get a vaccine, you sometimes need a second booster shot a week or two later, to make your immune system really kick in? Well, it works for wasp stings too.

The first sting was the normal "OWWW! I've just been stabbed with a fiery, poison-tipped needle" kind of sting. I yelled, slapped myself, and did a vigorous anti-wasp dance.

The next time, my immune system recognized the invading wasp-venom, and immediately went to war. For the next 24 hours, I was feverish, nauseated, and covered with an itchy red rash. Restless and uncomfortable, I couldn't eat, sleep, formulate a coherent thought, or hold a real conversation. I was very, very lucky in that I did not go into anaphylactic shock and have my airways shut down.

That was the end of my pacifist policy toward the wasps. No more ignoring them, no more opening the window to help them escape. Now it's prompt, pure, first-strike aggression. There's a heavy-duty flyswatter beside my desk, and I'm not afraid to use it!

When I was little, my mother always told me not to be afraid of bees and wasps. Like most parents, her adage was, "If you don't bother them, they won't bother you."

As an adult, I've learned that this is not entirely accurate.

The real truth is, "If you don't bother them, sometimes they'll come sting the crap out of you anyway, just for the fun of it."

Then you are perfectly justified in seeking revenge!


Mark said...

Well, I've been inordinately influenced by my Buddhist learnings. Every insect has the potential to experience enlightenment (ie. become a Buddha), so that I go out of my way to protect and preserve the life of any creature no matter how tiny or annoying. My neighbour calls me "the Fly Whisperer" because I am able to herd the flies out of my apartment without so much as laying a finger on them. And just the other day I ordered a moth to climb onto my finger so that I could release it outside - and it did exactly as I ordered. You need to negotiate with your wasps, explain your side of it and politely request they give you space. Same with the snake - although given their character you might have cause to doubt their sincerety. Cheers.

Nancy Chase said...

The Fly Whisperer, eh? You know, you could probably make a living going around to all of the people like me who live in old, bug-infested houses, and talking their bugs into leaving.

Like the Pied Piper, only with bugs instead of rats. Sort of the environmentally friendly, Buddhist equivalent to an exterminator!

See? And I knew you were looking for a career change! :-)