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Yellow and black stripes on the North Coast 500


Is this a picture of fennel, feverfew or blackcurrants? Actually it could even be a brick wall. But look again closely. This, would you believe is a photograph of a wondrous wasp feeding station. Personally, I have never seen so many wasps on one plant, ever. If I had zoomed out, you would have seen numerous little black and yellow insects covering all the tiny yellow flowers. I have had fennel for years in the garden but this is the first time it has produced so many feeding insects. It is not that I actually cook much with this herb. In fact I tend to eat it raw, its sweet flavour as good as any confectionery. My very own sweetie bush. I break off tiny pieces and munch my way around the garden. I’ve been careful through the last two weeks in case I popped a wasp into my mouth by mistake.

I have to admit it is not that I am particular fond of wasps. They appear short tempered, aggressive and prone to stinging at the first opportunity. But that is just my human perspective. A wasp I would imagine if it was to analyse its fellow insects would consider themselves, diligent and hard working. They help to keep not only their colony alive but the very planet we live on healthy. Pollinators are so important to our very existence and the environment in which we all live. They are an insect that takes no nonsense from anything regardless of it size. It will fight for it’s survival and woe betided anything that stands in its way. A surprisingly loyal individual who looks out for the good of its own community. In a way not that different from us in that sense really.

Of course they get annoyed as they become desperate when cold weather creeps in, flowers die and their food supplies slowly disappears. But hey, it is not the only being that dislikes chilly days and becomes disgruntled and grumpy. I dare say we all know of a few humans that would fit that description on a bleak day with little access to nourishment. We at least don’t die from lack of food, we don’t starve to death. I can even still access treats once my fennel sweetie supply dries up. A quick trip to the shops is all it takes to feed my addiction. They don’t all die you know, wasps that is. Their queen, like a Disney princess, sleeps on much like Sleeping Beauty until enough nectar is available to kiss her awake the following spring.

I had one in my hair the other day. After checking out if some of my seedlings needed watering, I carefully prised the fennel out of the way and squeezed past. I didn’t feel it secure itself into my hair. I wandered into the house and all in front of me screamed and ran away. I checked my face, what was wrong? And then I heard the scream of “WASP” and saw a trembling finger point to my head as the door slammed shut again. Everyone safely secured behind a solid wooden shield, protected from this tiny yellow and black MONSTER.

Only it’s not really, a monster, is it? It doesn’t kill just because it can. It can’t be held responsible if someone has an allergic reaction to its sting. It doesn’t mean to kill, it has no choice if someone threatens but to sting, sting and sting again. It doesn’t go about killing other animals by destroying its food supply or environment. It doesn’t dump rubbish or chemicals with total disregard for it’s fellow beings. A wasp as far as I know is not aware of its impact on other living things. Yet it helps maintain our environment, it helps support the plants and the food we eat. It encourages nature to develop and produce new growth. All this adds to the colourful displays of flowers and fauna that in turn nurtures our senses of sight, smell and taste. Their very existence allows us to enjoy that wide variety that nature can offer. As I said it is not that I like wasps but there are not the monsters we imagine.

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© 2020 by Ceitidh Hutton