I think both my fear and fascination with wasps began with my first sting. This is perhaps my first childhood memory. On a family reunion camping trip I unsuspectingly slipped my foot into a shoe, only to receive a startling and excruciating sting. I vividly remember holding ice to my foot, tears slowly sliding down my cheek as my grandmother pushed me in a swing, in a kind but somewhat pathetic attempt to distract me from that life altering moment.
Since then, I exerted a great deal of energy running from them, ducking for cover from them, surrendering food to them, trying to ignore them, gently shooing them and nothing has worked. Nothing.
Once while waiting at a ferry terminal with a friend I ordered a pizza, a $12 pizza. It was a beautiful pizza, hand made, organic, the toppings placed just so. Merely moments after I had taken my first bite, wasps had swarmed my pizza. No amount of fast walking, jolty movements, blowing, gentle shooing and hysterical shrieking could convince the wasps to seek a meal elsewhere. My friend embarrassed and probably wishing she had invited a different friend on a weekend away, calmly reminded me that wasps are small and generally mean no harm. But, you see my friend is a vegetarian, and while she is admittedly much more level headed than me, the wasps had very little interest in HER pizza and no amount of sensible speak could prevent me from hurling my pizza onto the ground and running in the opposite direction. Is THIS why people become vegetarians?
I love the outdoors. I need the outdoors. My body and my mind are at peace outdoors. My kids get along outdoors. My dog is happy outdoors. I cannot stand when my peace is disrupted by that all too familiar buzz and aggressive flash of yellow.
I wonder what my neighbours think when they hear my shouting and shrieking. Really, why would a grown woman be raising such a raucous outside? Or maybe they get it. We have all encountered a nosy and persistent wasp, haven’t we? I am slightly concerned that one day they will assume I am being chased by a tiny insect when I am in a deeper sort of peril.
Often lately they have been lurking just outside my door, threatening to come inside each time it swings open, invoking some fearful cursing and an immediate slam. They bump their bodies into the screens of my windows as they peer inside, meticulously studying the perimeter of the house, obviously plotting their take over. It was time, time to take back my doorstep, time to reclaim my place outdoors.
My late, great uncle, great, both in the wonderful sense of the word and in the generational way, an inventive and ingenious man, used to fashion his own traps. He’d hang the carcass of a fish, above a bucket of water. You see wasps are carnivorous, ferocious and selfish little creatures. They would feast and feast until they were so engorged they could no longer lift their tiny little bodies off of the fish and would plummet into the bucket below. Drowned by their own gluttony.
Since a rotting fish would most definitely draw in a much bigger and much more dangerous creature I opted to check out the selection of pre made traps at the ol’ Canadian Tire. Having heard a great review on something that sounded like the trap I held in my hand, I confidently headed for the check out.
I set that bad boy up, following every instruction, tightening and untightening, cutting and dumping, and washing my hands, I need no help attracting wasps.
I caught 39 wasps in 24 hours. 39! I watched two wasps literally fight to be the first one in. The trap was mesmerizing, alive, a buzzing ball of angry beasts, desperate to escape. 39 wasps meant that my original thought that there were one or two, possibly three mean wasps that were taking pleasure in torturing me with frequent fly bys often landing on myself or my kids, sending me shrieking in terror, arms flailing, racing for the safety of my house, was not true.
Day two, the number has probably doubled. On one of my excited frequent checks, I noticed what appeared to be a super wasp, much larger than the others, perhaps the king of all the wasps. Upon closer inspection, I was horrified to realize that it was carrying the head of one of its fallen friends. Turns out when trapped for hours on end, wasps will resort to hauntingly cannibalistic behaviours.
I have begun to picture a world, not completely free of wasps, because apparently they do serve a purpose, but one where there are traps in every space that I frequent. The park, scattered throughout my yard and the place I return my grocery cart to, offering the wasps something far more appealing than me.
Too long had I been running, yesterday was the day I took my power back from the tiny yellow overlords and it feels good. This does not come without consequence. Every time I shut my eyes I see them, crawling on top of each other, entangled, fighting for freedom; which is both delightful and disturbing. But it is worth it, completely worth it.
With a brazen confidence, that I am sure only comes from killing 39 wasps in one day and will soon dissipate, today at the park, I crushed a wasp under my foot, and a second by removing my shoe, and squashing it dead, right there beside the swings. 28 years ago a wasp used my shoe against me, today, I used my shoe to crush it. Today the tables have turned; today I have regained my power.