Wasp Wars

I am not scared of wasps. I just want to put that right out in the open, so you don’t get the wrong idea about me. In fact, I mostly think that wasps are pretty spiffy insects. There are several species of wasp that live in my hut, and they are welcome.

There are the yellow and black ones with looong stripey legs. They like to chew small tunnels in my walls and lay their eggs there. I have wasps that are mostly shiny black, but the back third of their abdomen is bright orange, as if they were carefully dipped in paint. They also lay their eggs in tunnels they chew in my walls. There are small metallic green wasps that bore into the wooden rafters on my roof to make their nests. There are dark wasps with orangy-red wings and orange eyes that build little mud tubes for their eggs on my walls and furniture. All these wasps and I live pretty happily together, and they are all very mellow individuals.

When Squeak was a kitten, he loved to bat a passing wasp out of the air and play with it for a while before eating it. He will still take a swipe at any wasp that flies too close. Despite all of that, I’ve never seen one of my house wasps try to sting him. One day I accidentally bumped into a wasp’s mud tube while she was inside. She flew out, buzzed around a bit, then settled back down, all without even threatening to sting me. So I’m happy to let all of these friendly wasps share my living space.

Sometimes living with wasps can be a little strange. I can actually hear them munching away at my walls, which was disconcerting until I figured out what was doing the munching: wasps are fine, mice or rats are not. Every day I have to sweep out little piles of chewed wall that collect under the tunnels. Sometimes I find mud tubes built in strange and inconvenient places, like in my hollow pot handles.

Funniest, though, is when the wasps start laying their eggs and bringing in food for their eventual offspring. What they do is dig a tunnel (or build a tube), lay an egg in it, then go and sting a caterpillar to stun it and seal it into the tunnel with their egg. The caterpillar stays alive long enough fo

r the egg to hatch and the wasp larva to have a delicious, fresh meal. That’s the plan, anyhow. When Squeak comes into the picture, things change.

Mamma wasp still digs her tunnel and lays her egg, but sometimes she gets intercepted by my fierce hunter on her way back into the hut with her caterpillar. Mostly she’ll get away, but often the caterpillar gets dropped and forgotten. Then eventually it starts to wake up; it is not uncommon for me to find groggy caterpillars trying to make their way across the floor. You wouldn’t think it was possible for a caterpillar to weave drunkenly, but they do.

So, mostly I don’t mind living with wasps, since the ones that choose my hut share my live-and-let-live attitude.

I have had some run-ins with an aggressive type of wasp recently. Unfortunately, this particular type of wasp seems to like to build its nest under the eaves of my chimbuzi, or toilet. There’s never a good time to get attacked by a wasp, but right as you’re ducking into the bathroom is definitely a bad time. Aggressive wasps call for aggressive measures, so I have made good use of my spray can of Doom. I have gassed 3 mean wasps, pulling down their paper nests each time. The first one managed to sting me, since I didn’t even know to look for it when ducking under the eaves. The score currently stands at
Jaime: 3, Mean Wasps: 1
I just hope that they give up and start building somewhere else. Or maybe they can learn from my house wasps and we can all live together happily. Is universal peace and tranquility really too much to ask?

Unrelated to wasps, but this is how my world looks this week.