I finally got stung by a wasp.

Been avoiding it all my life. It happened a year-and-a-half ago in January, bastard snuck in on a piece of maple headed for the wood stove. The sting burned with increasing intensity for a couple of minutes, then lingered for half an hour. There’s still a mark on my hand.

Since then I’ve kept a close eye for wasps before the wood comes in the house and found about a dozen more. I made a little pile of wasps on a stump by the door and covered them with a piece of bark. All my old fears are now frosted over and left outside.

Part of me is still a kid and the kid figured it’d be good fun to put a couple of wasps in a small glass jar and take it to work for “show and tell.” It was -10 C and 8 a.m. when I scooped up two wasps. By 10 a.m. they were stirring in the jar on my desk and creating a small buzz at work. Everybody had a healthy fear but as long as the lid stayed on we were fine.

Jet fuel for wasps

An hour later I poured in a bit of apple juice to coax the little critters on a bit. Apparently it’s like jet fuel for them. They were hovering quite nicely and ready to take on the world. We tried freezing them again but I don’t think it worked out.

“For the man who has everything,” I announced. “Even I don’t have a jar of wasps. Anymore.”

 I still had 10 wasps left. A friend of mine had a birthday in March, right in the middle of a snowstorm. He being an original punk rocker and me still being a kid, I figured a couple of wasps would make a nice gift.

“For the man who has everything,” I announced. “Even I don’t have a jar of wasps. Anymore.”

Owning wasps is a big responsibility. I like to keep mine frozen fresh out by the door.

There’s another species of wasp that I’m actually quite fond of and I’ve got one in my house right now. A couple of years ago my neighbour and I were chatting by the wood pile and were interrupted by a loud, crunchy, intermittent “nick, nick, nick” sound. We crept around for a while searching for the sound, which seemed to be coming from one of the junks of wood.

There was a small pile of sawdust next to the noisy piece and I cleaved it with an axe out of curiosity. There were tunnels lengthwise in the grain and a tiny white grub about three-eighths of an inch long. He also had a pair of extremely efficient black jaws for gnawing his way through life. We were thoroughly impressed and named the species “nipper bug.” There were others like him that usually worked in the evening and we nodded sagely. Just a nipper bug working the night shift.

Ma Nipper

In the daytime, however, a real nasty looking flying insect would inspect the wood pile and flit from piece to piece. I got a good look at it and backed off real fast. It had a stinger on it about three-quarters of an inch long. My handy Field Guide to Insects revealed it was a harmless wood wasp and the stinger was merely an ovipositor. A fancy name for a hypodermic arse for laying eggs in wood. It was nipper bug’s mom!

She looks for a piece of wood with just the right amount of decay, gives it a poke and… that’s where nipper bug babies come from. Aawww!?

Last July I heard the familiar “nip,nip, nip.”

“That’s not just any nipper bug,” I declared. “That’s my nipper bug.”

I brought him in the house. His junk of wood home is perched on the piano. He’s louder than the television and starts in mid-evening for 20-second bursts of renovations. Around November he slacked off and fell silent. He must be studying the flight manual and working on his pilot’s license.

Nipper bug will soon be wood wasp. Not just any wood wasp either.