Wednesday, 15 August 2007

An Ovipositer Ripe With Poison

by Edwin Hesselthwite

"I have no problem living with invertebrates: it is known to me how many mites my bed, clothes and body are covered in, and I tolerate spiders as they devour the biggest of these – this is inevitable and you should not deceive yourself that you are clean…" from Mouse Dies Screaming by Edwin Hesselthwite.

I was wrong.

It had been building up over a period of weeks. One day, noticing some grit accumulating in the light fitting which hangs above my bed, I was intrigued. I removed the glass dish and found — trapped beneath the bulb — the hunched remains of Vespula vulgaris: the common wasp.

I thought little of this, insects are so common around lights in summer, and I like to keep an open window. So it was only on the third occasion of finding a specimen of these vicious females that the problem became clear. Studying the light fitting closely I realised there were holes, vents, through which the insects had crawled from the other side of the ceiling, this being the weakest point, and they had become trapped inside. Each of these wasps had been either cooked by the searing light of the bulb, or walked in tiny circles upon frosted glass till starvation came.. On the other side of the ceiling, somewhere in the roof space, there was a nest and it was growing.

Again, my instinct for extermination was tempered by mistaken advice "leave them" they said, "the nests only last 1 year, you can then just destroy the empty shell with a hammer come November" they said, and like a fool I listened. Until last week when I removed the light fitting to dispose of the latest corpses — and like an overfull soup bowl — it fell from my hands and shattered. Now there was no protection, all that lay between my sleeping form and the multitude of vermin above my head was a thin layer of Gaffa-tape, which I had just used to seal the holes.

The next mission was as inevitable as it was formidable, dressing in the most ridiculous garb (with a thick sweater, gloves and a pair of swimming goggles), I moved my bed to one side and placed a ladder running up to the attic-hatch. Upon lifting the lid on darkness, I became uncertain — does one use a torch (for Americans, that's a flashlight)? An option likely to instantly attract some insects in the direction of the beam, but probably only out of curiosity. Or does one flick the switch, sending 100 watts of white light across the room, potentially screaming "THREAT" to the Queen's army of neutered drones? A dangerous option but one that doesn't necessarily tell them where you are. With my eyes adjusting to the darkness, I gingerly reached out towards the light switch. Seconds later - as the air filled with Hymenoptera - I descended the steps and shut the hatch. The location of the nest is still unknown.

So now, as the days pass, I must sleep beneath the hatch and light... Knowing exactly what lives above, but safe in the certainty that a week today the experts will come, and a potent nerve-toxin will be released upon them. Despite their angry stingers (an egg-canal that is used by the drones to pierce your flesh, rather than deliver young) they will all, to the last wasp, die.

By my bed I keep a can of RAID. It would be best not to mistake it for deodorant in the mornings.


Anonymous said...

The advice you got was correct. The nest is vacated in the winter, the queen hibernates, the workers die & the cycle starts again in spring. You could have removed the nest safely if you'd waited without subjecting these creatures to a horrible death by nerve agents but hey ho, they are 'vermin' & humans have the right to kill anything, so well done you; bet you feel powerful.

Edwin Hesselthwite said...

Let me tell you another story:

I was sitting on a train, enroute to a wedding up midlands-way. There I sat, suited and booted, reading some stylish magazine (I forget if it was The Economist, or New Scientist or somesuch). Every once in a while I lay my magazine down on the tea-stained table to adjust my MP3 player, when I heard a strange buzzing.

Searching around I realised there was an insect, lying on its back. And thought nothing of it... It was merely nearly dead. It was only when I lay my magazine down on completion and the darned little thing buzzed and span in a circle that I paid any attention to it.

Close-inspection showed that this small, buzzing, winged-thing (I believe it was one of those wasp-immitating hoverflys) has in-all fact been virtually decapitated. Every time it went into one of its buzzing frenzies the head bobbed around on a tiny thread like a nodding-dog in a Mondeo.

The tiny thing had lost most of its central nervous system, but deigned to consider itself still alive, and responding to stimuli.

I did what any commuter would have done, and wiped the remains off my magazine onto the British Rail logo embossed seats.


Further note, I am a vegetarian... But insects, tiny rote learning robots that they are, deserve no sympathy... I'd crush every wasp if I had the chance.

Charles Pooter said...

There is no room for weakness in the ongoing War on Wasps. It is us or them.

Charles Pooter said...

But seriously, The depressing thing is that increasing numbers of people think like "anonymous 7:21", nihilistically chastising humanity's arrogance in the irradication of pests and anthropomorphising wasps so that they can experience a "horrible death". I blame Walt Disney.

Pritchard Buckminster said...

Oh you big meanie, did oo kill da little waspies?

Death to the vulgar, harpoon equipped, no-honey producing skirmishers for the impending cockroach takeover.

Personally, whilst in California recently I took great pleasure in eating as many of the various creatures of this type as I could find (hmmm, tequila suckers wth added scorpion - luvverly, hmmm toffee apple with meal worms - nice!).

Death to small crunchy stingers!

Edwin Hesselthwite said...

I would like to say, for the benefit of the Disneyfires in the house:

Yesterday there was a visit by the man who works for the council... After wandering upstairs for an exploration ("Oooh, Biggest nest I've seen all summer, it's gonna cost you") followed by - suprising deja vu here - his cowardly running from the attic for his wasp-proof suit, he went in to attack the problem.

After jamming a rod into the centre of the nest, and pumping nerve toxin deep into the sweet, friendly infestation (the wasp had just finished the buzzing beginning to The Nutcracker Suite and were about to engage in a dance with the ostriches)they all proceeded to die.

Now, I am proud to say that approximately 1000 yellow and black insects are lying, foetal and dead, in my attic.

"You're dogmeat pal"