Queen wasp

Posted: Wednesday 10 April 2013
by Richard Jones

A dead leaf was twitching on the water’s surface, and gently peeling it up, expecting to see an animated amphibian beneath, revealed, instead, a queen wasp.

Queen wasp

Saturday, at last, this is when the weather finally broke; in south-east London, at least. Clear blue sky met me when I traipsed downstairs at half past seven, and as I stepped out through the Kitchen door I felt something I had almost forgotten about — the stuff of legend, warm sunshine on my cheeks.

There was still a slight chill in the wind though, and when I examined the pond there was a thin rind, perhaps half a millimetre thick, of ice. By 11, though, not only had this vanished, but the water was frantically bubbling with life. Several water skaters were skating in the bright sunlight, and not one, but five newts, were cavorting in the pondweed. There was at least one male, with his high raggedy tail crest, and he seemed to be doing more than his fair share of the frolicking.

A dead leaf was twitching on the water’s surface, and gently peeling it up, expecting to see an animated amphibian beneath, revealed, instead, a queen wasp.

Whether she had fallen from the ivy-clad fence nearby, or had been sheltering in the dense tuft of dry sedge in the pond corner, I know not. But she was alive and kicking and when I laid her on the pond-side she gently groomed her antennae with the delicate notches in her front legs. Just for a few moments she rested in the warm day, then off she buzzed. Lovely.

This, for me then, is the end of winter.

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Kate Bradbury 15/04/2013 at 16:07

Lovely x x

Shelly5 16/04/2013 at 15:54

Hurrah :-)

Matty2 16/04/2013 at 18:28

Not so lovely when one stings though. Half my face swelled up last year and took weeks to return to normal

Richard Jones 20/04/2013 at 21:51

Dear Matty2, indeed anyone who has been stung by a wasp

It has become something of a cliché that every year I defend wasps, because 'they are our friends'. After birds and spiders wasps are some of the most important insect predators we have in our gardens, eating flies, caterpillars, aphids, leaf hoppers and all manner of other small critters. They are part of the natural balance that keeps us from being overrun by pests and diseases. They are pollinators too.

Wasps do sting, but so too do honeybees and bumblebees. In all the posts about bees on the Gardeners’ World website never once has anyone commented on the beastly unpleasantness of bee stings. Yet wasps constantly suffer this repeated accusation.

Enough is enough. Now I rant. And to achieve pompous grandiosity, I’ve written this in the third person pleural. For added emphasis.

We interact with the environment in many ways. We see it, but we also touch it, feel it, smell it, taste it, eat it, play in it, walk in it, lie down in it. We are the richer for this tactile, olfactory (and all the other) sensual interactions. Sometimes we react to the environment in a less than pleasant way. We might get a rash from rue, we might get a splinter from a log, or a thorn from a rose, or stub a toe on a rock. But beyond a quietly uttered curse, we do not complainingly disparage them.

Stinging nettles sting. Grass pollen may make us sneeze, or a tall plant stem might poke in the eye when we’re bending down. This does not make the world, or even individual parts of it, intrinsically dangerous or evil. It just means we are not merely casual observers of a disinterested cosmos. Life really isn’t like watching the telly. It’s a natural world out there. We are part of this natural world. So are wasps.

nutcutlet 20/04/2013 at 22:01

With you all the way Richard. I've been stung by a wasp three times. Each time it ws me threatening them, even though I didn't know it til it was too late. Pulled up a large weed, nest underneath. Cut back a shrub, nest suspended in it. The last went down my bike jacket whilst riding along. Hardly the wasp's fault

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