Wasp or Bee?
Sit with friends in any garden for a few hours and someone will encounter a wasp. The poor little flying demon who weighs less than a four inch strand of human hair (wasp 20mg – hair 60mg) brings fear to the bravest of people.
The yellow and black striped fighter-jet can sting multiple times.The strength of a wasp’s venom varies from common wasp stinging nettle sore to European hornet injected acid painful. However, the possibility of being stung is pretty low. If and only if it is left alone. They rarely settle on a humans skin, because wasps love small morsels! We are monsters. And why is the arm waving human stung? Most often because the light weigh wasp becomes trapped in the fine hairs on our arms and legs! When one stands still, moves slowly or ignores the wasp it will fly away.
Unexpected and painful encounters occur in the home during autumn. The so called sleepy wasp falls into clothing or behind an object and an unfortunate human is stung by the unseen insect. The dying wasp enters the home because it is searching for sweet food and our homes are sweet fragrance traps. You see, wasps die before winter of starvation: they are not sleepy they are dying. It is only the fertilised queen which hibernates and begins the life cycle the following year.
Each nest is used once. Good gardeners know it is best to leave the nest alone if the wasps are not causing problems. Of course, the nearer a human house, the greater probability the colony will be destroyed. The social wasp’s too-ing and fro-ing to the nest is because they are tasked with ferrying food supplies to the growing larvae. Knowledgable gardeners know the wasp has immense benefits within the garden. It feeds on grubs and parasites which damage vegetables, fruit and flowers. And yes: the wasp does damage fruit: but as in all of natures wonder, there is a balance. Most orchards suffer less damage from the feeding wasp than the potential of fruit parasite which are controlled by the wasp.
The wasp is a loner, its danger over estimated: the yellow and black stripes instil fear by reputation. Incidentally the so called social wasp has an average lifespan of 17 days. And once it leaves the nest it lives a solitary existence. If one understands the little insect you realise it is of immense benefit to humans. It is castigated for one reason – its ability to sting and cause pain. Most people believe it is a useless parasite and cannot even pollenate plants. Which in most instances (the pollination aspect) is true, there are of course exceptions to every rule and some species do have hair and feed on the nectar of flowers. The majority of the species feed on small insects. grubs and larvae.
The wasp is a hard worker making immense contributions to the health of our cultivated land, crops and orchards. You may not like their tough-guy attitude, but one has to respect their solitary dedication to their natural instinct. Few will love them for who they are and most will hate them for what they are not.
The bee is a difficult fellow to categorise. Bees are flying insects closely related to wasps and ants, known for their role in pollination and, in the case of the best-known bee species, the western honey bee, for producing honey and beeswax. The honey bee has become an essential aspect of worldwide pollination of plants. Insecticides, certain fertilisers and changes in farming techniques have decimated the colonies. However, a lesser known and more concerning aspect of the decline in number is Global Warming. When combined, man’s interference with nature has decimated forty-percent of the worlds bee population.
The honey bee has become humankind’s saviour. If we lose the bee, the reality is unthinkable. Without the bee’s pollination of plants our crop, fruit and vegetable supplies will become threatened. The social aspect of honey bee’s life cycle and hive is a paradox. It makes the social beehive strong and industrious and also proves fatal to disease and some species of parasite. Although the bee inherits immense strength from its social integration. The close proximity of bees within the hive means a mite or virus can wipe it out in weeks. And there is another weak aspect: the reliance on the government of the beekeeper and the beekeeper’s practice. A poor beekeeper has unhappy bees and unruly bees rebel.
The honey bee is more fragile than one imagines. A poorly sited hive will often result in angry bees. Hives close to a pathway, in busy allotments or places where there is high frequency noise results in unhappy colonies. Derek Jarman wrote of his angry bees on many occasions. He realised they became agitated shortly after weekends when many guests visited him at Prospect Cottage. And their fragility results in anger: My friend Harold Palmer remembers a vet shooting a cow after being stung thousands of times. The unfortunate beast strayed into an orchard and knocking over a hive. The beautiful insects need calm and peace, when they are in agitated environments they are dangerous companions.
The naturally living bees (the one’s whose honey cannot be harvested) are to be encouraged and nurtured. Every opportunity mankind has to offer a place of safe refuge should be taken. Although this is interference with nature, it is one which has to be considered. Providing bee hotels is a great way to boost bee diversity in the garden, by attracting solitary species. Solitary bees lay their eggs in the hollow cavities, leaving a small supply of food for the larvae to eat. The larvae then hatch, pupate and emerge from the stems. Always position bee hotels in full sun. Good bee hotels have a wire mesh in front of tubes to prevent birds eating the larvae.
The inhuman race is in jeopardy from many channels of attack: Just like the pollinating bee. Virus, disease, war, anger and environmental agitation are some comparisons. One should remember the bee’s ability to pollinate plants is more important than harvesting of honey. But wait! Is this true? If there were no demand for the honey, there would be fewer bees: so the honey is an essential aspect of the equation.
Bee’s are fragile and to a degree rely on a symbiotic relationship between mankind and the honey factory workers. It is a relationship is essential for survival. We will do well to consider the lessons learned by considering of the bee colony. It survives through instinct and following an agreement with nature. Each bee knows its place and understands its part in the hive’s success. Should humankind learn to understand most live in a social beehive? And as it has grown beyond the mother Earth’s natural capacity to feed its population, the evolution inevitably means control and policing of the way the hive is allows to live?
Sometimes the bee is mistaken for wasp. Being at a distance or with poor eyesight the mistake is made. One is seen as danger the other as beneficial. And yet, the truth is both can strike a painful sting. And both are beneficial to humankind. One the solo predator, an unsung gardener’s hero. The other a provider, a slave of mankind, exploited by the governing beekeeper.
There is no defined message in this essay. It is one which is written as a cathartic exercise. One which helps to use natures messages to guide one’s thoughts. So many humans fight to live, and believe they should live forever. The thought is unless we all contribute and accept the fragility of our existence there is little hope of long term security. We know the truth of the bee’s plight and do nothing. And yet every garden has a place for a bee hotel. The wasp is seen as a threat so it is killed and falsely identified as a danger.
And yet the two insects are related: the same but different and live within their environment. They have no thought toward humankind or other species. They live with the threat of unforeseen danger without wavering from their daily tasks. As with all creatures they follow the path of life. Birth – existence and death. Nature demonstrates it is the living, giving and following of the individuals path which results in positive evolution. There is no interference with natures evolution all flows to the benefit of the ‘whole ecosystem’. One impatient species who lives opposed too: or who has forever lost its real nature. And these selfish and impatient and greedy beings live in fear of the inevitable outcome of their diseased, ravaged and failing social beehive.
You may comment: ‘I already know the sentiments within this essay: it is boring’ and the reply is ‘So what have you done to rectify the situation?’ ‘What have you taught your children?’ ‘Can you accept your fragility?’ ‘Is reality a stranger?’ ‘Do you think you can overwhelm the course of nature?’ ‘Are you immortal?’
Are You Wasp or Bee?