When my children were small and we started to have enough money to go on holidays, the younger of the two, Charity, formed an altogether unhealthy attraction to WASPS!
I do not refer to the American acronym (White, Anglo Saxon, Protestant) but the irritating yellow and black striped flying creatures whose purpose on this planet I have not yet been able to work out.
By the time Charity was twelve years of age she had been stung by Wasps in:
England (several times – this is home after all!)
Scotland (and we were only there half a day!)
It didn’t matter what nationality the Wasp was – if Charity moved into its territory she became some sort of Vespiform threat which HAD to be stung!
Incidentally, I make no apologies for borrowing the term “Vespiform” from the 2008 Doctor Who episode “The Unicorn & the Wasp”. I believe that it is the correct term for Wasp-kind despite my spellchecker rejecting it! The Vespa motor scooter was so named because it was supposed to sound like an angry Wasp.
These unprovoked attacks on a small girl, however sweet and sticky from fizzy pop, ice cream etc. she may have been, reinforced my own determination to wipe out the whole Wasp species.
This was not a new idea. It all started in the hot drought summer of 1976 when my mates and I were sleeping off a heavy Saturday lunchtime in the park in Ipswich. A Wasp managed, while I slept, to get itself wedged under the strap of my wristwatch and just kept on stinging me until its poison sac was completely empty. This was just before I managed to wake up, rip the watch off and kill it (the Wasp, not the watch!) – although from the pain and swelling I experienced it bloody nearly killed ME!
Since then a state of WAR has existed between Wasp-kind and I.
Recently I have found the perfect weapon to strike effectively at them in comparative safety – an old badminton racquet. For one thing such a device is mostly “hole” so that there is no warning “bow wave” of air to let them know it is coming. For another thing the aforementioned holes are not individually big enough for a Wasp to pass through unscathed!
This means that a clean swing at any kind of slight angle to its line of flight results in the creature being chopped in two without knowing what hit it.
About five years ago an entire nest of Wasps (located some considerable distance away) found something sweet and tasty in my compost heap and set up a flight path down the side of my house to it. Unfortunately (for them!) they passed the back door at a height of about 6 feet (1.9 metres if you’re young or foreign) and if I stood in the doorway with the said racquet I could bisect one every few seconds!
Which I did! On one glorious Saturday afternoon I took out over three hundred of the little striped bastards and there must have been a lot of “one of our aircraft is missing” messages back at Nest Control THAT day!
My reason for making these bloodthirsty revelations (and you know me well enough by now to know that there is ALWAYS a reason, however obscure it may be) is this:
On my holiday in Majorca recently I GOT STUNG!
Now I should explain that on foreign holidays I always get BITTEN – usually by the local version of the Mosquito. In fact, a couple of years ago I came back from Turkey covered in so many visible red lumps I thought I was going to get quarantined for bringing Bubonic Plague into the UK.
This time it was a sting not a bite – and I can tell the difference even if I can’t explain it – on my left forearm just below the elbow. As is usually the case with these afflictions I did not notice its arrival for some time being slightly anaesthetised by San Miguel beer. I am told, incidentally, that “San Miguel” is Spanish for “Marks & Spencer”!
Now mid-May in Majorca is too cold (relatively speaking) for Mozzies and WAY too early for Wasps! So I was a little puzzled as to what manner of creature had managed to get me.
It turned out to be a BEE.
As you probably know a Bee, unlike a Wasp, can only sting ONCE. This is because its sting has a barb on it and the entire sting mechanism therefore gets ripped out of its body when it flies, or gets brushed, away. This causes it to DIE and you have to wonder what evolution was thinking of when it devised THAT as a defence system!
I found the dying Bee not far from my sunbed and while I don’t normally wish harm to such useful creatures I couldn’t help but think “serves you right” as I had done nothing to antagonise it.
The Hotel we were at had a lot of flowers in bloom and we went on an excursion passing through several “garden” areas of the island. Being now fully aware of their kamikaze tendencies I kept a careful lookout for Bees in these places.
I didn’t see ONE!
Is it possible, do you think that I managed to get stung by the only Bee in Majorca?
Or, as Faith, my dear wife, so wittily put it, “There’s only one “B” in “Balearics” and it stung YOU”!