A blog focused on nature, science, environmental topics, and happenings at the Pocono Environmental Education Center (PEEC).

A Naif in the Forest by Darrell Berger

Wing Tips to Hiking Boots: Musings of a New, Full-Time Poconos Resident

Last fall a weakened brown paper wasp struggled on our basement floor. They are relatively harmless unless their nest is threatened. I gently nudged the wasp onto a piece of cardboard. It seemed to cooperate. It was very still until outside, then flew away. 

Over the next month I escorted several dozen struggling wasps to freedom. Only queens are around in the fall. They shelter over the winter and build nests in the spring. 

As the weather warmed more wasps appeared around our deck. I left them alone and vice versa, while looking to make sure there were no nests on the deck. The warmer the weather the more wasps I saw. Perhaps this was because I had saved so many queens in the fall. Yet others reported more wasps this season, too. This unusual year has brought an increase in several species to our part of the forest. 

No wasp ever bothered me. I fantasized that some of them might even be thanking me for saving their queen. I felt like the wasp whisperer. 

Then one afternoon I had no more sat in my deck chair than a wasp appeared and bit me without warning! My left arm swelled like a bratwurst. 

We searched for a nest but found nothing. The next day my wife was stung in exactly the same way! Her sting was no more than a mosquito bite, while mine took five days of steroids to subside. 

Kathleen, the scientist of the family, began a systematic search for the nest. Then she found it, or them. There were small nests under the arms of our deck chairs! It was like the wasps were following the script of a Hitchcock movie with the culprit found literally at the arm of the victim.

 We disposed of the nests. Days later I found a large nest had fallen to the ground, empty, from its perch under the far side of our deck, where I had previously neglected to search. 

Apparently these wasps did not remember me from the fall, nor had they been informed of my good deeds.

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