My mother would be shocked.

I’ve done a lot of things in the past 10 years that have probably shocked my mother. I turned into a history buff. I got over my fear of heights. I started listening to Johnny Cash. I ran a marathon. I quit swearing.

All of that would be shocking to anyone who knew me in high school.

But today was a shocker even by my standards.

We just got back from running an errand with Songdog, and as soon as we got home, he went running to the pond to get a drink. I chased him out (I don’t think he needs to drink that blue tint I put in the water to prevent algae bloom) … and it’s a good thing I did, because a big orange wasp was floating in there, struggling to keep her little head above water.

Here’s the shocking part: I went and got a stick and rescued her.

That shouldn’t be shocking. But it is. Because I spent my entire childhood terrified of wasps and bees and virtually every other type of insect known to man.

My attitude toward bugs changed when I became a gardener. I always loved ladybugs, but it’s only been in recent years that I developed a tolerance for the strange, alien-looking mantids and big black-and-yellow garden spiders that keep destructive pests off my tomatoes and peppers. I’ve fallen quite head over feet for the green lacewings, and I think you know by now how I feel about that colony of gorgeous little Golden Italian honeybees who live in the hive behind the garage.

It wasn’t until three years ago, however, that I made my peace with wasps. I’d always been a bit leery of them, and after a run-in with a particularly belligerent character when I was 17, I was downright terrified of them. I knew they were good for the garden, but I didn’t want anything to do with them. Thanks for pollinating the tomatoes. Don’t let the garden gate hit you in the ovipositors on the way out.

But when the peppermint patch started taking over my garden in Belleville, every imaginable size, color and species of wasp came to dine on the plants’ fuzzy blossoms and sip water from the surface of my goldfish pond, and I couldn’t help being a little awed by the diversity of my pollinators. There were red ones and black ones, orange ones and yellowjackets, and — most fascinating of all to me — shiny black ones that glimmered iridescent blue in the sunlight. Gorgeous things, and I caught myself weeding the garden far more often than necessary just to have an excuse to watch them.

Still, thinking of my unfortunate altercation with the wrong end of a wasp a few years earlier, I couldn’t imagine getting close enough to save one of them from some impending hazard.

But it’s hard to watch a friend struggle for life in a hazard you’ve created … so I found a stick and lost my fear and rescued the little creature who was fighting to keep her head above water on the surface of my pond.

Last time I saw her, she was clinging to that stick in my dormant garden, drying her wings in the sunshine.

4 thoughts on “My mother would be shocked.”

  1. WOW. And I mean simply WOW. I am terrified of wasps, having been stung by one at the delicate age of 8, I’ve alwasy treaded carefully around them. Your posts has left me awestruck. I’m thinkin’ of a treaty between myself and all the wasps.

    By the way , do you know if marigolds tend to wilt towards the end of winter. My marigold plants are dying out and I can’t explain why…? 😦

  2. This poor wasp was too disoriented and out of breath to sting anybody. I probably could have fished her out with my hand if I’d wanted to — an option I briefly considered but decided against, partly out of self-interest, and partly because I wasn’t sure I could grab her without hurting her.

    I need to keep a dip net near the pond for just such emergencies. Something is always crash-landing in there.

    About all I can tell you is that marigolds are an annual, and annuals will only last one season. They’re a summer plant here, but obviously you’re in a different climate than I am. Have they gone to seed? If so, they’re just done for the season. Let the seed heads dry, harvest them, and replant next season.

    If they haven’t produced seed yet, and they’re dying off prematurely, I’d look at basics like light and drainage. Marigolds prefer full sun, and most plants don’t like wet feet. Check and make sure something isn’t shading them, and make sure they aren’t under the drip of the house, or — if you’re container gardening — that the container they’re in has holes in the bottom and nothing is blocking the holes. If they’re in a terra cotta pot, you may have the opposite problem: Terra cotta tends to dry out much faster than you expect.

    If you want to send me a picture of your plants, I can try to figure out what’s going on with them. You can e-mail me at sundayjohn66 at mac dot com.

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