Wasps in the woodpile

The other day I was moving some firewood that had dried over the winter and spring. I was minding my own business sweating and grunting in a very manly fashion, when I felt a sudden sharp pain on my ankle.

Now, I phrase it that way to be all macho and manly. I'm not really a macho guy. I know, you're astounded, what with all the firewood moving and whatnot. But I'm kind of a girlie man. So the real, accurate way to describe what I felt was a hideous, searing pain that shot up my body, caused me to squeal like a little girl and may have made a tear or two come to my eye.

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I'm saying it hurt.

After a second or two, though, the testosterone took over and I unleashed a stream of expletives that would have made my father, an old Air Force type, recoil in horror and embarrassment. I looked down in time to see a wasp disengaging from my ankle.

Then I saw another wasp. And another. And then ten more, a hundred more, and in less time than it takes to type all this I was halfway across the yard because a thousand more, nay, a million more, came swirling up from under the woodpile, all of them armed and intensely peeved.

Clearly, I had disturbed their happy little home by moving a log or two. And they had come out to make sure there was no more of that foolishness. Apparently, they had sent an emissary to deliver a "cease and desist" order.

Look, I don't blame the wasps. I daresay that if somebody came along and ripped the roof off my house, I might be tempted to send my wife out to bite his ankle, too. And I don't dislike wasps per se (which is Latin for "from a very great distance"). But I don't want them living in the same time zone as me.

See, it's different with bees. Your average bee just wants to be left alone to go out, pollinate flowers, collect some nectar, go back to the hive, barf it up and make honey from it. All in all, laudable activities, and if I keep my distance, they keep theirs and everybody is happy. That's the deal we have with bees.

But wasps don't make deals. Wasps are like the street thugs of the insect world. They move in, take over a territory, buzz around with a tough guy attitude and just bully everyone. If you put a wasp under a microscope, I bet you'd see it's wearing gang colours and probably has a pack of cigarettes rolled up in its sleeve. And I bet it would be looking up at you with its million-faceted eyes and buzzing all sorts of wasp epithets at you.

Even the name is angry sounding. Wasps. Say that a few times out loud. Wasps. Wasps. Too many pissipps, if you ask me.

I watched from across the yard as this swarm of angry wasps buzzed around, spoiling for a fight. "Come on," the swarm seemed to be saying. "You want a piece of this? You want a piece of this?"

Well, I didn't want any part of that. My ankle was still throbbing from the first sting and I can't imagine what it would be like to get a few thousand more. When I think of gruesome ways to shuffle off this mortal coil, "being stung to death by wasps" takes a close second to "being strapped into a chair and forced to listen to every John Lennon/Yoko Ono album with the John Lennon songs edited out".

I asked around among my friends to see if anybody knew a way to solve this dilemma. I got a few suggestions from friends who are nature lovers, but all those ideas seemed to involve ways to quietly anaesthetize the wasps and move their home to a different location. Frankly, I don't want to hear an idea that does not involve napalm.

I've gone out toward the wood pile a few times in the past week, just to check on things. I don't know what I'm hoping. Perhaps that the wasps will have sensed that they are not welcome and sadly packed up and moved on. This does not seem to have happened. Any day now I expect to hear a knock on the door and open it to hear some buzzy little voice telling me, "We've run out of room. You have ten minutes to get together whatever belongs you can carry. The rest belongs to us now.."

So I've got two choices: go in and do battle, or wait for the bitter winter to solve the problem naturally.

Of course, they have control of the firewood. So it'll be a toss-up to see who freezes to death first.

Nils Ling's book "Truths and Half Truths" is a collection of some of his most memorable and hilarious columns. Send a cheque or money order for $25.00 (taxes, postage and handling included) to RR #9, 747 Brackley Point Road, Charlottetown, PE, C1E 1Z3

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