The Sting and the Sweetness

I’ve been thinking about wasps lately. Probably because I was stung by one Monday. Crew member Jenny was too. The field was full of wasps that day, searching out the last drops of summer sweetness before season’s end. In fact, there’s a yellowjacket nest in the ground at the southeast corner of the hoophouse, and the residents stream in and out all day long.

There was a time when I would unthinkingly reach for the can of poison to end a nest like that. Then I attended a talk at a farmers’ conference one winter where the speaker explained how that was what he would do, too—until he learned how many cabbage worms each wasp eats. (I forget the exact number, but it was notably large.) The speaker went on to describe how he now not only doesn’t kill wasps, he tries to encourage their nests around his farm.

His point was driven home for me the following season. One morning I was spraying an organic control for cabbage worms in the fall broccoli when I noticed yellowjackets swarming up as I disturbed the plants. Looking closely, I saw that they were indeed feasting on the bug I was working so hard to eliminate. So now when I find a wasps’ nest, I let it be, if I can. Even if, once in a while, I do end up feeling it’s sting.