We’ve had a few nests of paper wasps at our house over the past 5+ years. Over the years they’ve started a few nests, small ones off a few cells that they’d sometimes abandon for unknown reasons and sometimes they come back to them. They are small clustered tubes of grey, looking like loose bunches of Sunday newspapers bought from some tiny delivery kid on their weekend paper route around the garden, and turned into a paper mache bouquet.
They meant even more to my partner, spending days in the garden they’d often watch her work as much as she watched them. Once a spider built an elaborate web overnight surrounding their nest, and they watched with patient faces as she deconstructed the web and moved the spider on.
Over seasons their family grew with the size of the nest. Some summers, tubes were capped with wax as little wasplings grew inside to emerge weeks later. Of a night they sometimes shelter on the flat top of the nest, or crawl in a tube for shelter from wind.
Recently we had huge storms across the coast. Rain and flooding were intense and the winds were worse. Coming home one morning we noticed that their nest had blown down onto the path in front of our door. A few wasps were at the roof where the best used to be, and a couple more were at the grounded nest. It was easy to read the tragedy with human experience, in their frantic but futile action. We hit a small still from the house and some super glue and easy enough put it back in the position that it fell from. The wasps watched us from the roof or hovered about, but never tried to sing us even as we handled their home for over a minute, with them clinging onto it. It stayed attached and they immediately got back to work replacing wax and trending to anything in the sealed tubes; making repairs to their long-lived home and staring at us, as they sometimes do, while we work near them.
Then on Friday, in a brief moment, we were out, that all changed
Human neighbours must have had some internal pest control done, and one of them crept over our fence and sprayed the nest with some poison. Then they took off. Years and generations of our considerate neighbours were destroyed by human xenophobia and an inbuilt need for destruction.
It’s difficult not to think that humanity is the earth’s story case scenario. Too short-sighted and greedy to do anything more than squeeze the last drop of personal gain off their environment in their short lives and too arrogant to stop graffitiing the landscape with boasting of their own greatness.
Sometimes I get weary of hoping that humanity will change. They perform horrors on one another without learning from the past, led by greedy men, or unable to challenge their own ego and empathise with another, praising the genius of the wealthy as if there was a linear relationship between abundant wealth and the ethics of accumulating and hoarding it.
There will never be a day when we are free from the tyranny of ourselves; but I do hope that a collective consciousness, an ethical understanding, is reached whereby we can continue as something greater than ourselves. Less destructive and more considerate of our place in time.
There are people that I’d want that for. There are still people that connect me to the species of my birth.