If this was the European Union, people would be saying the wasps are Greece and I’m Germany, but they’d be wrong.
It’s true I waged a devastating war on them, but the wasps are still just wasps. Furthermore, they’re the same wasps that gave me twenty or more painful stings even though I did nothing to them except pull up a few weeds.
No sense of humour, these vespidae. A few years ago, I noticed that a colony of them had set up home in one of the rockeries, so I had a word with a friend who might know things about nature. A vaguely hippie sort of lad.
What am I going to do about these fucking wasps?
He regarded me with the sort of languid condescension only ageing hippies can muster and placed a patronising hand on my shoulder.
Live in peace with them.
Believe it if you want, but I took him at his word and I let the wasps alone, even though I didn’t like his smug, hippie tone.
You live in peace with them! Bastard.
Oh well. That’s smug, condescending middle-class hippies for you, and yet, for years after that, I took his advice to heart because in many ways he was right. I don’t mess with Nature and Nature doesn’t mess with me, unless you assume that I’m just a representation of the human race, in which case Nature is going to mess with me big-time, since our sort have destroyed the planet.
The more I think about it, the more I’m drawn to the conclusion that we, the humans, are no more than a parasitic organism that has attacked the planet Earth. We destroy all that we touch. By our carbon emissions and our poisonous by-products, we threaten to destroy almost every form of life on the face of the planet.
Many years ago, when I was just a lad, I came across a charming little book by the tragic amateur naturalist, Eugene Marais, called The Soul of the White Ant. In that book, later plagiarised by Nobel laureate Maurice Maeterlinck, Marais set out his understanding of what constitutes a living organism and, from his studies of termite hills, deduced that some individual insects are analogous to red and white blood cells, others to liver, kidneys and lungs, and yet more to the central nervous system, with the queen fulfilling the role of the brain.
The ant-hill, according to Marais, is the living animal, not the ant.
Marais developed elegant and simple tests to support these speculations, and his arguments were compelling enough to grab the imagination of my 18-year-old brain. In all the intervening years, I haven’t heard anything to make me think he was wrong, and therefore, by extension, I can’t avoid the thought that the planet is the living creature and that we, the humans, are no more than the infection that threatens the body of that creature.
If that’s true, sooner or later the Earth’s immune system will wipe us out, as it should.
I learned today that bees are dying off faster than they can be replaced, thanks to human activity, and if that’s accurate we are truly doomed since all human life depends on bees.
And that’s how, by a commodious vicus of recirculation, we arrive back at wasps, the bastards.
You see, I’m not the most observant person ever. I have difficulty telling the difference between almost anything and almost anything else, thanks to my poor ability to detect colours. It’s true that I can tell the difference between a horse and a lobster. I can immediately spot that a manhole cover is not the European Space Station. But just as I cannot tell the difference between Noel and Liam Gallagher or between Gary and Phil Nevillle, I also cannot tell the difference between a bee and a wasp.
Shame on me, but there you go. That’s me. Idiot.
How will I get rid of these invaders? I asked myself. If they’re bees, I can’t kill them. And if they’re wasps, I can’t use poison in case it goes into the food chain. Such are the unending conundrums with which we first-world folk beset ourselves.
I thought and I thought and I thought until finally I had no idea, so I called my bee-keeping friend.
You! Have you a bee suit?
I have. Why?
Will you come over and dig up a nest of murderous stinging wasps? Take them away in your car?
No. Fuck off.
All right then. Do you know special vespid incantations that will make them all die?
No. Are you taking very serious mind-bending drugs?
Of course not. That ended years ago. How will I do away with these bastards? They might sting a small child, or even worse, my dog.
Have you tried water?
That gave me pause, I must admit.
Yes. Why not try to flood them? The queen will decide to evacuate and all the rest will follow.
So that’s what I did. I put on the bee suit and I dragged an ordinary garden hose close to the hole they were using to enter and exit the hive. It’s a strange experience wearing one of these suits, and not one I’ve had before. You know you’re safe from the stings, and yet, as they buzz around your face you still fear one of them might get in and have a right good go at you. It’s a very strange feeling.
As the water came on, the wasps went crazy, attacking the hose and even the water itself while I stood still in my white suit, observing. As I said, I wish them no harm, but I don’t want them near my house. I know they form part of the biological net, and I know they take out many of the vile insects I don’t wish to have hanging around my home, but I also don’t want creatures near my home that can kill some people with a single sting.
It’s been a while since I noticed activity near the entrance to the nest, so perhaps the queen has decided to find a new home.
I hope that new home isn’t somewhere else in my garden, or else it gets the hose again.
Oops. It didn’t work.
They were back again the next morning, so it became time to attack them with heavy artillery in the form of the high-pressure power-washer. That machine has two attachments and I opted for the maximum-destruction one, the bit that can strip stones out of concrete and turn earth to jelly.
Suiting up isn’t great fun, even if it does make me look nicely ridiculous. It’s hot and it’s sweaty. It’s cumbersome. But by Jesus it’s necessary if you don’t want these horrible little predators to make a dartboard out of you.
The high-pressure assault seemed to work, though I decided to do a bit of overkill and tear some stones out of the wall just to be on the safe side. Any survivors buzzing around didn’t seem to be coordinated or even motivated, so I’m feeling optimistic that I finally got them, but let’s not get carried away for a while. These are resilient little buggers. Resilient and entirely unsentimental.
They’ll kill ya, but at least they don’t hold a grudge.