Friday, July 19, 2002

A wasps' nest is a curious thing. It can't rightly be called beautiful, there's too much menace and fear associated with it for beauty. And yet it can have a papery round perfection to it.

Wasps, on the other hand, can only be given grudging respect, except perhaps if one is an entomologist. Especially as August draws near and wasps become increasingly aggressive. Which is why C., the fashion photographer, decided it was time to remove the nest that wasps had built in the eaves of his summer house.

He started rather cavalierly with merely a jacket and long trousers, poking a little here and there as he exposed the nest to daylight. But the mad buzzing was enough to make him reconsider.

And so we fitted him out, Tweedle-dum fashion: first with a stocking cap; then on top of the cap, one of those wire-mesh hemispheres that serve as an airy cover to keep flies off of the last two uneaten pieces of rhubarb pie still left in the pie pan; then we pulled down a mosquito net from one of the bedrooms and put that over the wire-mesh pie protector so the yards of netting hung to the ground.

With his long legs and the high cheekbones of his handsome face hidden behind the netting so that only his huge hands poked out, he looked like a Gilbert and Sullivan version of a Chinese potentate. We tied the long trailing ends of the netting around his waist, and then taped his gloves to his sleeves with duct tape.

Looking now more like a comically maniacal and slapdash beekeeper, C. was ready to do battle with the wasps, tree-pruner in hand.

In the end, it was impossible in that get-up, and he got the thing into a bag with only the jacket and gloves for protection, with the help of another summer guest.

As he walked me down to the jetty where the ferry back to Stockholm stops, we laughed that he was wary that the wasps might somehow follow him even though he knew they would not.

"I wonder how long the ones that weren't in the nest will fly around before they figure out that it's gone?" he asked.

It was nearly enough to make me feel sorry for the wasps.

The Swedish word for the day is of course geting, which means wasp.

- by Francis S.

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