Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Worrying About the Wasps

For the last few years, the little patch of turf directly outside of my church office has been a riot of life in the mid-summer.  The air right above the grass is a swirl of menace, filled with dozens and dozens of big black-and-yellow wasps.  By immense, I mean immense by bug standards, as big as the first two joints of your forefinger.

When I first encountered them, I was...well...a bit prone to fretting.  I walk through that patch of grass on my way to change the church sign.  They look scary-huge, and the first monkey-brain response to things that scare us is fight or flight.

Or both, meaning first we run away screaming like a little girl, and then hit Angie's List for a reputable exterminator.

Shortly after I first encountered these critters, I bothered looking at them for identifying markings, and then spending some time researching them.    They were impressive, and I was curious.  What I found was that they aren't hornets, which are really quite dangerous.  Nor are they yellowjackets, those fierce little gangbanger nasties who'll go after you and your kids and your dog if you step onto their turf.  I feel no qualms about going to war with them.  Say hello to my leeettle can...

But these bugs?  They're Eastern Cicada Killers.  And though they look terrifying, they're completely harmless.  The females have a sting, but they don't use it unless you're 1) a cicada or 2) actually in the process of crushing them intentionally with your bare hand.  The males are the territorial ones, but they settle their differences with other males by...wrestling each other to the ground.  They have no sting at all, and they don't bite.  And, yeah, they're big wasps, but I'm reasonably sure I can pin one.  They're as innocuous as ants.  I walk through them, as they go a-swarming, and I feel no fear.

As a matter of fact, these nifty critters are beneficial, as they take out cicadas, which prey on trees.

With only a few months between me and my departure from my congregation, I find myself worrying about the next denizen of my office, who'll be there (God willing) next summer.  When the wasps rise up and tear around looking all ferocious next year, it'd be easy to jump to conclusions.  It'd be easy to panic, and put in the call to exterminate.

So, hey, you!  New pastor person!  Those fearsome creatures, buzzing around your office?  Get to know them.  They're not really as dangerous as they might seem.