I’ve started finding dead and dying wasps in the carpet and the kitchen sink. It’s that time of year of course, but I’m finding more than usual. Although given that there’s a wasp nest in the gutter it’s not a big surprise.
In early spring we had the usual queen wasps checking out the masonry and occasionally getting in the house and checking that too. A couple of bumble bee nests made themselves noticeable in the garden. The odd wasp. It was only on a very windy day that I noticed all these insects blowing about outside while I was doing the washing up. I went outside to see the air above the kitchen window full of wasps whipping about in the wind, all aiming for a little space behind the gutter. We had a wasp nest!
I’m sure some of you must be horrified by the thought of this, but I mainly felt proud and curious. I like wasps. I don’t like angry wasps that are chasing me around or writhing in the carpet with their stings out, but mostly they leave you alone if you leave them alone. Honest.
I haven’t been stung by a wasp since I was four. My dad was fishing on the river Stour in Kent and us kids had to occupy ourselves on the river bank. I don’t remember getting stung but I do remember that it hurt very much and I wasn’t very brave, but my mum gave me black coffee to drink and I’m sure she told me it was medicinal. For years I thought black coffee was a good cure for wasp stings.
I had a strange wasp-year when I was at junior school. They just seemed very attracted to me that summer. They landed on my face, crawled through my closed hand, over my (closed) mouth. Not just once, several times. I learnt that if you are still and quiet they don’t attack you but you have to have faith – and patience. To be honest, if I’d screamed and brushed the wasps off they still probably wouldn’t have stung me.
My closest encounter of the wasp kind was when I worked on a stud farm in Sussex. Working for peanuts (anyone remember the YTS scheme?) and living in a squalid caravan. It had what-was-once-luxury shag pile carpet. About an inch thick and encrusted with years of grime. No, we didn’t have a hoover. There was a damp patch in the kitchen area. If you trod on the electric cable from the fridge you got a tingly shock – I only did that once. We were actually more in danger from the wasps. There were hundreds of them, and they could get in the caravan even with all the doors and windows shut. They’d get stuck in the carpet and writhe around with their stings out for ages. We put wasp traps out (jam jars with watery jam in). Within half a day each jar would be full of very-hard-to-drown wasps. In hindsight, I guess leaving jam out only encouraged more wasps to come in, but amazingly, no one got stung.
They weren’t all so well behaved though. We had an open day every summer, and during the preparations a wasp nest must have been disturbed in the hay barn. I made the mistake of walking too close to the nest and and boy did I have to run – they chased me right round the yard. We had to close that section off to the public because the wasps were so aggressive.
Back to the present. For about a month or so we’ve been getting a lot of wasps in the kitchen, even if the doors and windows are shut. I think they are getting in somehow from their nest in the roof, and then try to get back to the nest from inside the kitchen.
While in August they were still energetic, now they are getting drowsy and weak. It won’t be long now before wear-and-tear and the cold weather finishes them off. I hope they’ve enjoyed their summer in the gutter though. I’ve enjoyed having them around.