The friendly fly had me so enraptured and entertained that I scarcely paid attention to my surroundings. After all, I was on my own patio.
I leaned against the fence while snapping pictures of the fly as it scampered about the latticework and frames devouring whatever biological matter it could find.
Looking for a slightly better view, I stepped sideways and turned a bit.
Movement seen from the corner of my eye caught my attention and spun me around.
Atop the fence right where I had been leaning was a paper wasp (Polistes exclamans) bundling up another roll of pulp to add to her nest.
We had been so close…
Generally speaking, I like wasps. Dirt daubers and mud daubers don’t bother me. Cuckoo wasps and yellow jackets fascinate me. Mason wasps and velvet ants beguile me. And my favorite, the largest cicada-killer wasp imaginable, surrounds me each summer and keeps me enamored and full of joy.
But this kind of wasp? Not so much.
I remember as a young boy standing in the back yard holding my infant nephew on a hot summer day. The grass freshly mowed proffered up its beautiful, memory-inducing scent.
Warm air blew against me like that from an oven, yet I loved it, loved the moment, loved the designs it drew in my mind that would stay with me forever.
Then a brief tickle caused me to look down.
On my right leg was a paper wasp. This exact species, in fact.
I didn’t move.
Its stinger bobbed up and down against my skin as it crawled about.
Then it went in.
With no incitement to justify it, she stung me with a mean-spirited assault before flitting off into the sky. That graciously happened when I was quite young, and that means it was before my allergy to wasp and ant stings had developed.
Nevertheless, I remember the experience like it was yesterday for it happened more than once.
It’s for that reason alone that I don’t trust paper wasps as a whole (other similar species have proven themselves equally and unnecessarily vicious).
So as I captured that image of her gathering up wood to turn into paper, I quietly warned her that I wouldn’t hesitate to be unkind if she or her cousins chose to nest on my patio. Several decimated cellular structures already litter the ceiling and fence where they have tried—and failed—to colonize my home.
I don’t want to be unkind. I don’t want to kill. But more importantly, I don’t want paper wasps invading my territory. The threat from them is quite real, and I don’t just mean their aggressive personalities and tendency to sting first and not ask questions later.
The point is simple: That old adage of “Don’t bother them and they won’t bother you” applies to all other wasp species I have encountered, but it doesn’t apply to paper wasps. With dour personalities and malicious tendencies, they’re as unfriendly as you can get.