Wrath of the hymenopterans.

hymenopteran
noun
1. Any of an order (Hymenoptera) of highly specialized insects with complete metamorphosis that include the bees, wasps, ants, ichneumon flies, sawflies, gall wasps, and related forms. – Merriam-Webster1
2. Assholes. Lots and lots of tiny little assholes. – The Nut


I was stung by a wasp for the first time when I was eight. I was running around during a game of tag in our school’s maze of salmonberry bushes when I felt something lightly brush my forearm. And when I looked down, there was a yellow jacket sitting there, happy as you please.

I slowed to a stop and raised my arm to examine this unexpected passenger. I’d seen plenty of stinging insects in our garden at home, but I’d never had one just land on me before. This one didn’t appear to be going anywhere. I figured I’d have to wait him out.

A friend appeared around the corner just then. No stranger to being stung herself, she immediately noticed what I was looking at and came to an abrupt halt a safe distance away. “Is that a…?” she began.

And then the little fucker just stung me and flew away.

I spent the next half hour in the nurse’s office under observation to make sure I wasn’t going to swell up and die. Which was the prudent thing to do, but still rather amusing to me since after five minutes you couldn’t even see where my assailant had jabbed me. Truth be told, I was almost grateful to the vengeful little brute for getting me out of the big snooze that was Language Arts for an afternoon.

The second time I was stung was 80% my fault, 20% my gym teacher’s.

In seventh grade, our class expanded by half. To try and encourage us to make new friendships, we were sent off to an outdoor education center for a weekend bonding experience.

I was in heaven. I had always excelled at survival games and orienteering, and I was accumulating new friends quickly.

Our last activity on the second day was building makeshift shelters in teams, using only natural materials. Each team was assigned a teacher as a supervisor who was not allowed to help with the building, but could be asked for advice. At the end of the allotted time, our shelters would be judged by all the teachers as a group, and a winner selected based on how warm and dry it was likely to keep the occupant.

When we were turned loose to select our building sites, most students headed for the more heavily wooded areas, but I made a beeline for a nearby rock face with a slight overhang and waved my team over. The trees did not provide quite as much of a canopy here, but there were nods of approval as everyone realized how much more we could get accomplished with half a ceiling and a back wall already taken care of. Mrs. West, gym teacher and my team’s supervisor, grinned and gave me a thumbs up.

Construction went quickly and efficiently. We completed the basic structure in no time and then went about filling in the larger cracks with moss and adding large shards of bark over top as extra protection from the elements.

As I stood back to admire our work thus far, I spotted the perfect stash of bark several metres away. I picked my way through the underbrush and was just about to reach my target, when the carpet of leaves beneath my left foot gave way and I crashed through a buried log.

The sound of dozens of angry displaced citizens instantly replaced the tranquil quiet of the woods. I had the sudden impression that I had stumbled into a tunnel filled entirely with people playing kazoos.

Somehow, I managed not to panic. Time seemed to slow down within the cloud of buzzing wings that had exploded around me.

I knew two things immediately. One, I didn’t want to piss off a bunch of already pissed off stinging insects any more than I had to. Two, no one else on my team was going to suffer as the result of my misstep.

I felt the first two stings penetrate my neck. I locked my arms and head in place and spoke in the loudest yet most controlled voice I could muster. “Everyone get back, NOW! I stepped on a wasp nest.

My team turned and gawked, but made no effort to move away as I gently freed my foot from the log, earning myself another sting, and began a slow, robotically smooth exit from the area.

“What. are. you. all. doing? Please. get. BACK!” I spoke haltingly through gritted teeth as I felt another jab in the neck.

Although I would later be praised for my cool head and quick thinking, both my teammates and Mrs. West admitted that in the moment I sounded so damn calm about the whole thing that it just didn’t quite register with them that anything was really wrong.

Luckily for them, and for me, the nest I had stumbled upon was almost entirely populated by slackers. Four warning stings and a dozen steps away from the nest, the wasps just gave up and went back to what remained of their home.

Mrs. West rushed to examine my puncture wounds when I got back to the group. I was bombarded with questions from all directions for the next several minutes, mostly along the lines of, “Are you SURE you’re not allergic?!” and “How in the hell did you manage not to flail around like a crazy person?”

When everyone finally shut up, that’s when Mrs. West noticed a buzzing still coming from inside my t-shirt. “There’s a wasp down the back of your shirt!” she shrieked, and before I could stop her she had seized a handful of the fabric and was flapping it wildly to shoo the wasp out.

Which got me stung a fifth time, right between the shoulder blades. Thanks, Mrs. W.

On the bright side, even though I ended the day full of holes, our shelter didn’t, and we won the competition.

My team gave me full credit for choosing our location, which I couldn’t argue with, but I respectfully requested that no one pat me on the back.


Today’s blog post was brought to you by the letter H, the number 7, and the StickThemWithThePointyEnd Challenge, AKA the Blogging A to Z Challenge.

1 “hymenopteran.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, 2015. Web. 9 April 2015.

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10 thoughts on “Wrath of the hymenopterans.

  1. You are the bravest person in the world. Also Mrs. W. showed remarkable restraint in not throwing in a “Holy shit” somewhere in there. Have you been camping as an adult? Because you’re the ideal person to have along: smart, skillful, calm, and you’ll never step on a wasp’s nest ever again.

    Like

  2. Oh, wow…. I got hives just reading this. Then again, I am deadly allergic to stinging bugs. I was once stung by a bee on my thumb and my throat swelled up so quickly I had fainted by the time my mom got me to the car… I had to carry an epipen for the rest of my school days.

    But your ability to be calm then really was commendable. They should have made you a special badge or something… “The Wasp Whisperer”… 😛

    Liked by 1 person

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