Still nervous, with barely a wasp in sight – Otago Daily Times

little killers somewhere in here. Photo by Roy Colbert.

Wasps. I have written about these venomous little killers
before, my fear of them born of a weak immune system that would
be no more likely to stop a wasp sting than survive an
intravenous insertion of the Black Plague.

A nest appeared beside the drive in midsummer, and as I flung
doors and windows open to welcome in fresh air and sunshine,
the sort of thing that heralds Dunedin globally, in flew
thousands of wasps from their queendom inside the boundary
retaining wall we share with council land.

I rang the council immediately.

Is it on council land, the receptionist asked.

Why of course, council woman, I replied, you have cleared
wasp nests from this same spot twice or possibly three times.

I will ring you back, she said. I could not fault her
friendliness and clear desire to save my life.

But, of course, this is what councils are for.

Two months went by, and I realised friendliness and a clear
desire to save lives will not exterminate a wasp nest.

I rang again.

This time I was told there was some dispute as to which
council department should be dealing with this particular

They would ring me back forthwith.

I waited a couple more weeks, and gave council another polite
tap on the bottom, being a ratepayer who, unlike pretty much
everyone in this town, actually has profound sympathy for its
current fiscal woe.

I mean, it’s not easy to work out the actual cost and
repercussion of a badly designed stadium.

So many noughts in THAT figure, it would be easy to lose a
few in the confusion.

I certainly wouldn’t want that job.

It was autumn now.

Possibly we had missed the prime killing season for nests,
and, to be honest, it would be an exaggeration to say
thousands of wasps were tormenting my every waking minute,
more like hundreds.

A man finally came, was shown the location of the nest, and
waited patiently to divine the numbers involved.

Apparently, I was not there, two wasps showed up in around
half an hour, like two absent-minded guests showing up for a
party that been held the week before.

The man said he would consult some maps and determine if the
nest was on council land.

Well, mercifully, just when I was considering going private,
a wasp nest man came along last Friday and did the business.

But I remain uneasy.

I am a philosophical man, and I am used to treating every day
as my last on this slowly dying planet, so I have been
looking for conspiracy.

And I have gained the distinct impression the wasps are
mounting a very skilful campaign, into which I am being led
like a lobotomised blowfly is led into a Darwin bark spider

There are too many unexplained factors this time, and the
seemingly near-empty nest and the possibility the wasps have
paid off the council, desperate for money to pay off the
stadium, remains highly likely.

I wish I knew more about wasps.

It does seem clear to me they can read – there is nothing in
Wikipedia that says they cannot.

And after all, who knew dogs could play scrabble? (Dazed and
Confused, 6.9.11).

Reader Wasps (lector waspus), the elite, way above the
common bread-and-butter brand (waspus stingus), would
have read my last tirade on their worthless non-contribution
to life (Dazed and Confused, 1.10.13) and resolved to attack
me in a different, and ultimately far crueller way.

I can only suspect butterflies.

Very few people – well, myself and lepidopterist Brian
Patrick – are aware of the astonishingly close relationship
between wasps and butterflies, how the wasp’s life cycle is
completely dependent on butterfly larvae pupation, and,
indeed, Brian may not even know this, how often in the
lepidoptera world the butterfly is referred to behind cupped
hands around the office photocopier as a mulatto wasp.

I am predicting that wasps will mass this winter to come for
me in a stinging, bedrizzled larva of deadly mutant
butterflies, probably on Christmas Day.

Roy Colbert is a Dunedin writer.

Still nervous, with barely a wasp in sight – Otago Daily Times
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