Aug 4, 2006

Fool Me Once, Shame On You

Fool me twice, shame on me.

Ah, it's something I heard Scotty say once on Star Trek. And it has remarkably little to do with this entry, it just sounded kinda interesting.

See, I've got this thing for Nature. I like it. Always have, likely always will. And I like bugs. Big bugs, small ones, inbetween one, even those with the strange arrangements of feelers and things that look remarkably like an erect...well, nevermind.

For more years than I can count, I've spent time rescuing nature from my house. Rollie pollies, lizards, grass spiders, what have you. Creatures, in short, that can't survive inside. And that includes those beautiful black and purple dirt daubers that exist all over place out here. Their official name is Chalybion californicum, but I've always just though of them as dirt daubers. And the thing with most dirt daubers is, utterly unlike the rest of the wasp family, they're astoundingly calm creatures.

See, I've caught a number of them. Tons of them, usually just so I can bring them outside in my cupped hands, to release them back into the air. I was under the impression for the past 35 or so years that they didn't sting people. I knew that they never sting animals, and we're animals, right? Well, seems they do, sometimes. Wikkipedia tells me "Even when thoroughly agitated or aroused, they are not likely to sting. Because of their calm tempers and ability to control the spider population, many people respect them."

Oh, I'm all for that. I love the little jokers. I once by accident broke up a nest, and counted no less than TWENTY SEVEN black widow spiders crammed in there. I'm all for them. But I have to say this--I got stung today.

Housecleaning, you see, in preparation for the weekend Oregon trip to get my daughter back home. And there has been one of those beautiful little daubers in my kitchen window for two days now, and I decided it was time to catch and free it. So, after a few abortive attempts to capture it, I managed to cup most of my hands over it, and received an astoundingly sharp sting for my troubles! So, I did what any red-blooded man (and cat, Fiona was helping me) would do in that instance--I sulked. For about five minutes, long enough to make sure I wasn't allergic (I'm not,) and then I went and got a plastic cup and a piece of paper, covered the wasp with the cup, slid the paper betwixt window and cup, and carried the whole arrangement outside.

I was astounded! A sting, from a dirt dauber. I guss I had always assumed that they just talked their prey to paralysis or something. "And here's a picture of my fourth nest, with Uncle John standing near the corner..." It wasn't anything, mind you, a welt about half the size of a pencil eraser that lasted about fifteen minutes, and a very little discomfort. Heck, if fire ant bites were that mild there wouldn't be a problem with them, either.

So the swelling is gone, the extremely mild pain is almost non-existant now, but I've gained a new respect for those nervous-seeming little wasps. Always jittering around, walking in that agitated, staccato way they do, constantly flitting their wings, as if they can't get them to fold up just right, a recaltricient umbrella that's attached to your back. They're still beautiful, still worth rescuing, and still one of my favourite insects. I think, though, that I need to make sure that the next one I attempt to cup in my hand hasn't been in a hot kitchen window for two days drinking triple-shot espressos and arguing with his wife.


Vulgar Wizard said...

I'll be damned!

The Ivory Pen said...

I had one of those land on my knee while cleaning out my pond today. I guess he was looking for a drink.