Wasps and A Garden Project

The soil near our front door is somewhat sandy and grass struggles to grow there. This environment evidently is perfect for the Indiana cicada-killing wasps. They visit us every year, buzzing near the front door and across the walkway and down the side of the driveway as they dig holes in the sandy dirt. Their goal is to grab cicadas and drag them down into the hole for use as a nest for the wasps’ offspring. The wasps return every year to their nesting grounds in mid-July and go into cicada-murder mode until about mid to late August.

Since they are non-aggressive, we mostly leave them be. They are simply another part of life’s cycle even though walking through their frantic flights to get to our cars isn’t for the faint-hearted. If the population grows large enough to be a nuisance, I start running water to fill in the holes. The wasps get irritated and redig their homes. However, the destruction happens often enough, the cicada-killing wasps will go away and find some other place to weave their villainous mayhem.

This year was different.

This last year, our well, which is located in this sandy patch between the front walkway and the garage wall, needed repair during the early winter. The well repairmen dug up most of the sandy area. Afterwards, the ground was left heaped up and uneven as well as free of weeds and grass. Perfect time to turn it into the fairy garden spot that I always wanted.

Spring came and I smoothed out the lumps and added garden edging, an array of flowering plants, and black mulch. In addition, I also fenced it off so the dogs would stay out. For some bizarre reason, my golden retriever loves peeing on flowers. On top of that, I placed my collection of ceramic fairy houses, flowers, windmills, and fairies on top of mid-sized flat stones. The plants grew and now the area is quite lovely.

A fairy garden with a pot sculpture of a lighthouse
My fairy garden with anti-dog fencing

The cicada-killing wasps have returned. They are quite angry. When I walk out, they buzz from flower to flower and across the fairy houses. I picture them with little furious faces, trash talking.

“What the hell? Where is my nesting ground?”

“What’s with these stupid houses? A cicada won’t fit in there!”

“Flowers! I liked the bits of clover. Who redecorated?”

They shake multiple fists at me and grumble when I walk by.

In short, I accidently gentrified their neighborhood. And with any gentrification, I ousted the old residents in favor of the newer ones. Oops! In truth, I forgot about them and their villainous burrows. The wasps have gone on strike.

I go outside now and occasionally find a fairy laying on its side. I picture the wasps duking it out with them during the night, punching the little fairy figurines and then drawing back bruised knuckles. Or even gangs of wasps trying to push the houses over in protest. I’ll be impressed if I find the cottages knocked over.

While the wasps still fly circles over the walkway and fairy garden like little protesters carrying signs of “fairies gotta go!”, no holes have appeared under the black mulch.  I’m not worried about them though. The wasps still have plenty of sandy spots along the driveway, which are closer to the cicada-filled trees anyway. Nature will rebalance and we will find a way to live peacefully together again.

Connecting with Nature to Save Her and Ourselves

A magical connection exists between those who actively work to grow plants and the subtle essence of the world. The gardener or farmer, whether the sower of flowers or vegetables, feels the changing of the seasons and the weather in a deeper, more soulful way. For non-growers it’s easy to look out the window, wishing for rain or hoping it will go away. They also feel the heat of the sun or the coming coldness but a gardener experiences it on a more profound level.

For instance, when the summer heat is high or days pass without rain, a gardener or farmer feels sympathy and perhaps some fear at the droop in the plants’ leaves or their curling up and browning. The workers of the soil connect intimately with the dying process of those plants which should thrive under their hands. The smell and color of the blossoms make them smile for ripening “fruit” isn’t far behind.

My garden on a hot July day. One section is empty because I already harvested the snow peas.

Thus, gardeners immerse themselves in nature from the earthworms in the soil and the buzz of pollenating bees to the wetness of a dew-covered harvest. This wonderous relationship make us appreciate the interconnectedness of all things and feel the threads of fear when something goes missing.

Case in point: Bees and Butterflies

I usually plant at least four pumpkin plants for the blossoms every year. Their long vines stretch and cross the stepping stones and weave around the green beans and tomato plants. My family has two recipes for pumpkin blossoms, one of which dates back at least four generations and we love these delicacies.

I go out in the early morning to pluck my future food when the vines produce their large yellow flowers. The blooms last for only one day and they close by 10 am. Therefore, I’m usually harvesting at the same time as the bees. Just five years ago, this activity would take more than thirty minutes because I picked the empty blossoms while waiting for the bees to finish rolling around in their flowers. The buzzing sounded like early morning music. I was never as brave as my mother, who could pinch the blossom tips shut, trapping the bee inside. She then plucked the flower and lightly shook it before releasing a pollen laden, slightly drunk-acting insect.

Bees are quite magical in their own way. For a long time, scientists didn’t understand how the fat little bodies could fly. The hive mind is alien to us independent thinkers. Yet these seemingly insignificant yellow and black fellows give us so much: honey, wax, nectar, royal jelly, and even bee venom, which is used in some alternative medicines. All of these industries now suffer with the bee population’s decline

Butterflies have their own magic too. They produce smiles as well as being pollinators and bird food. When one lands on us, we don’t slap it away or kill it. We don’t think it’s eating my sweat or they may have just come from a dung pile dinner. Instead, we take a moment to soak in their beauty and the serenity of their flight. They are the embodiment of small, beautiful blessings from God.

Back to My Garden

This year, I planted spaghetti squash which is a second cousin to the pumpkin. The blossoms are also bright yellow and large, although I don’t harvest them. When I go out in the early morning to pick my green beans or peas, silence greets me. The bees aren’t around.

The other plants are suffering too. My cucumbers, also a favorite of the little fuzzy insects, are not producing well. The flowers are not getting pollinated. If my few vines are doing poorly, how are the farmers’ crops getting along? This is not just a case of our food prices going up. Without the pollinators, our food won’t grow. Farmers depend on the pollinators, so the use of dangerous pesticides will ultimately lead to us starving ourselves

Save the Bees and Butterflies to Save the Earth

This year so far, I have seen three bees in the clover and one lone butterfly despite the fact that I planted flowers for their enjoyment. What sadness this season brings as the world becomes a little quieter and a little grayer without these small lives. Yet, nature will endure if we just give it a chance. If we can quit using dangerous pesticides and plant more, then vegetables, flowers, bushes, or trees will all heal mother Earth again. The bees’ and butterflies’ populations with grow again. Climate change will slow. If enough of us do plant anything to flourish, we might even save the world as we know it now. We will also fight climate change, the ultimate killer. That is a win-win situation for humanity.

So put a pot of flowers on your apartment deck for the butterflies and bees or add a sapling tree to your back yard so the world’s amount carbon dioxide will decrease. Give mother nature a helping hand in rebalancing our world and you enjoy the beauty she gives back.