Some things in nature are beautiful, but you need to keep away


I have to say, bees, wasps and hornets fascinate me, even though, like ants, the social colony aspect of them seems creepy to me. I also think that it is a good thing that these creatures are so tiny, because they would be truly horrifying to look upon if they grew to the same scale as humans.

I started noticing yellow jacket activity near one of my hummingbird feeders the other day. I watched for a while, from several different angles to see if I could find where they were coming from. I was concerned that it might be one of the house soffits. In another house, many years ago, I had a huge yellow jacket next in the attic space. I found out about it when they ate through the drywall ceiling and filled my house. My son was in kindergarten and learning to count to 100. After the terminator had fogged the house and we vacated for eight hours, we returned and B practiced his counting as we cleaned up. I think we reached 100 about 8 or 9 times — and that didn’t include the ones that I vacuumed from chair cushions and window sill corners. But, more memorable, was when the contractor tore out the dry wall, filling a large trash can with wallboard and hive. The sticky sweet stench was overpowering. It was in hopes of avoiding a repeat that I tried to find the nest.

The next day, as I was returning from my morning walk, I noticed a constantly moving stream of winged creatures near one of my shrubs. And then I saw it, hanging like a paper lantern, under one of the limbs that reached out over the drainage ditch.

I got close enough to it to see that they weren’t yellow-jackets and to decide that I needed to call an terminator. I also thought: Cool! I need to go put my macro lens on my camera! I can get some great shots.

Luckily, I gathered some practical sense and decided to look on the internet to see what sort of winged stingy things these were. Turns out that Bald-Faced Hornets are one of the more aggressive stingy waspy things in this part of the world and that they don’t need much to provoke them. Revised plan: telephoto lens.

The hive really is beautiful, but I’m glad that I wasn’t stung repeatedly. I would have liked to have held the nest, to feel how heavy — or light — it was. The texture of the nest, the way that the wavy lines gently swirl around the asymmetrical sphere: beautiful. In the late afternoon light, hidden in the shadow of the evergreen, it seems as smooth and cool as a piece of opaque art glass.

The terminator apparently came by this afternoon and removed the remains as he said he would. I won’t experience the stench of their sap and remains. I wish that they had chosen to build their home this summer high up in a tree, far away from my driveway and mailbox and the street, someplace where I could have left them undisturbed, where they could have stayed in their beautiful home without posing a threat to us humans who claim this space too.

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