How To Get Stung By a Wasp or The Problem of Liking Plants Too Much

When you like plants too much, you think about their pollination. You worry about the bee problem, and not having enough pollinators. You look at the beautiful blooms and flowers and smile every time you see a happy buzzing bee doing it’s work. They go about their job, I go about my job and a peaceful coexistence is reached. There is a trust between us. An invisible barrier. We can look, but don’t touch.

So last week I came across a nest of buzzing insects at the nursery. We use artificial turf as a weed barrier, especially for horsetail, and there was a small pile of it left over in our receiving area. I noticed some activity, and my first thought was bees. Upon inspection, I realized these were not bees, but neither did they appear to be like the wasps that usually nest around the nursery. These insects were smaller, perhaps 1/2 and inch in length, and to me they did not look like bees or wasps. After some quick research I thought they were possibly hoverflies, a true fly that mimics the colors of bees and wasps to avoid predation. After I began learning about hoverflies, I soon found out that they are pollinators and also their larvae feed on aphids! I instantly liked these bee-like flies and convinced myself that such inhabited the nest I had found. I did a little more reading and found that the main difference between wasps and hoverflies was that wasps have four wings and sting, while hoverflies have only one set of wings and do not sting. Pollinators in our presence! I felt protective of these little friends and stuck my hand right up next to their nest, snapping pictures with my i-phone. They didn’t seem to mind. All was good.

Until others as work suggested maybe they weren’t hoverflies and we need to move that pile of turf. The can of wasp-spray was produced and I was horrified! Killing our little pollinators? Showering them with a nasty chemical? No! It couldn’t be! I pleaded on behalf of the busy little bugs. It was so fun watching them zoom in from the outside world, just having returned after a successful pollinating job. I admired them. They knew exactly what they were doing. They knew exactly where they were going (Which is better than most of us!) I decided in the morning, when the weather was cool, I would attempt to move the ‘hoverfly’ nest to a different location, or at least disperse these good insects rather than exposing them to the can of death. I put on my gardening gloves and inspected the nest. I was surprised that they were rather active in the cool morning air. I grabbed a small piece of loose turf that was attached to their nest and pulled. Within seconds I was stung on the hand, ouch!!!  Having conducted my own science experiment, I knew this was a wasps nest. Although they didn’t mind my close-up photography, they were extremely quick to attack when their nest was disturbed. It’s been four days and my hand is still sore. Oh, even though wasps are pollinators too, these were exterminated post haste. My love affair with hoverflies is over and I will try not to let plants get me into these painful situations again. Somehow, it’s all their fault!

Hoverflies or Wasps?
Busy Bees Swarming a Sedum
Look! Two sets of wings….and a stinger!!!

2 thoughts on “How To Get Stung By a Wasp or The Problem of Liking Plants Too Much

  1. Wasps are indeed given a wide berth if we find a nest…we move nests that are too close to the house in the evening just at dark when they are dormant…but we still use great care…take care of that sting…ouch is right.

  2. Ouch – learning the hard way! I know we have lots of different kinds of wasps, but I couldn’t tell you what they are. I react really badly to stings, so keep my distance! 😉

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