Friday, August 17, 2012

Life With Killer Wasps

We have a gigantic and continuously growing wasp nest outside our bedroom window.  While it provides an intriguing glimpse of the lives of these industrious insects, we are always aware that nothing but a plastic mesh separates them from us now.  For they have built all round the window frame, the iron grill and are busy trying to expand their home each day.  I think we are now left with no option but to remove the nest.  This is an unfortunate conflict of interest as they have no way of knowing where to stop and we have no method of communicating with them.

The reason it has come to this is as always, partly human.  We began our search for answers and options a month ago with our esteemed Ecological Sciences department.  It took some time to contact them for emails did not evoke a response.  We were not particularly concerned at this stage though I occasionally had to calm my maid (who would launch off into stories about how her kith and kin were painfully stung by bees and the enormous proportions their faces had acquired).  Most people we met advised us to 'knock it off' or 'spray it down'.  In the west, there are powerful sprays which shoot jets many feet high, dissolving entire structures.  Our friends promised to try and bring us some on their next trip.  But the next trip would probably be a year down the line.  The only person who nodded calmly was a fluffy looking elderly Parsi lady, our friend's mother, who lives on a large farm by herself.  "Yes, if you don't trouble them, they won't trouble you," she said and we left it at that.

Of course, the least we could do was to find out more about this specie.  And so, once more, it was to Ecological Sciences that we turned. Someone came to our house and told us that these were vespas, very aggressive wasps and bullies of the bee and wasp world.

We were now one step closer to Knowledge .  We now had a word to use in our internet searches and the inevitable question, "What do we do?"  We were told that someone called Ponnannaji dealt with these issues and we could try and contact him.

Vespa - the fierce yellow and black hornets that live from spring to late summer or fall, and do not occupy the same nest twice.  This is what the internet informed me.  It did not sound too bad and if we didn't trouble them, they wouldn't trouble us, I thought, reassured.  Meanwhile, relatives drifted in and out, muttering, "Oh how beautiful!" and "My parents had something like this for many years, they had no problems whatsoever!"  The internet however cautioned me that any smell (rotting wood, apples, pears..) could drive the vespas crazy.  Fortunately, these fruit are so expensive that until the season is well underway, we don't buy them.  And we would have to take our chances with rotting wood.

Time moved on and our search for Ponnannaji began.  This turned out to be difficult for the Ecological Sciences people didn't feel Ponnannaji was the right man for this task but couldn't think of anyone else other than the Security Officer.

Meanwhile, we had no problems with rotting wood (our window frames were falling off, but modern 'beading' does not rot in the same way as old huge Burma teak logs and the vespas didn't even know when we repaired our frames).  However, we were having a lot of trouble with light.  The wasps are very sensitive to artificial light.  So we could use the lights during the day but not at night or early morning otherwise they would begin buzzing and circling the plastic net, trying to enter the room.  This was not too much trouble for our hours are not very different from theirs, nonetheless, it was a constraint. And one day, we saw a huge number of wasps buzzing around, enlarging the various openings they had built.  We thought they might be leaving, but it was not to be.  The numbers grew and as they began building round all the obstacles, the buzzing and scraping sounds intensified and then we had to leave town for some work.

Now we are back and have just called the Security Officer, who started laughing on the telephone.  "The Ecological Sciences people are dealing with wasps everyday," he finally managed to say after his mirth had subsided.  "How can they not know what to do?"  Finally he informed us that this was not part of his job.  We had to contact the Estate Office, who would in turn call Pest Control.  Today is Friday and we are not quite sure when we will find a solution to our vespas.  I am a little sad but I will be relieved to have a clear window to the sky and a room devoid of buzzing sounds.

Note: As it turned out, Pest Control came immediately and sprayed something noxious on the hive, then broke it down.  Some wasps died and several flew away.  I also spent the day outdoors and it will take another couple of days before we can use the room.  A large and complex operation!

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