Facing fears: the giant hornet!

“Facing your fears robs them of their power” — Rob Burnett

Bravery: courageous behavior or character
In 2011, when I was a volunteer at an organic reforestation project in El Limonel,Ecuador, I was weeding around trees when I was faced with an object of extreme terror. It was an army of fire ants, climbing up a stake attached to a small tree. I looked at the ants. They were marching like an army that was prepared to do battle or to die trying.

There were other areas around other trees that could be weeded. I was not a Klingon. “Today is not a good day to die,” I thought resolutely and departed rather abruptly.

I was afraid of fire ants but, that day, I decided not to be brave because I had nothing to gain from it. Eventually, the fire ants would leave, and I would be able to dig up the weeds.

Fortunately, in Western New York, we don’t have any fire ants. They prefer a warmer climate and, in the United States, live mainly in the southeast.

One fearsome insect that we have in Western New York is the… giant hornet!! There are various types of giant hornets. Asian or Japanese giant hornets are considered to be quite scary and aggressive. They are huge! Two inches long and as thick as a human thumb. They will attack and destroy yellow jacket nests. Yellow jackets are also aggressive and they like sweet stuff. They go into cans of soft drinks and, when you drink out of your can, you are in for an unpleasant, rather painful surprise. In other words, this is not the time to face your fears by drinking out of the can, without regard for what might be lurking inside. There’s a difference between brave and foolish. Pour your beverage into a glass so you can see if you have any unwelcome guests. Bravery does not mean drinking up a living yellow jacket.

But, back to the giant hornets. In Western New York, our giant hornets are of the European variety. They are considerably smaller than the terrifying Asian variety. I did not know that until today. I had to pick up apples that had fallen from the tree, and I was terrified of the giant hornets that were staggering all over the apples. Well, although European hornets look scary, they are actually quite beneficial. They eat insects that are considered to be pests, when they aren’t gobbling up apples. Fortunately, they seem to gravitate toward apples that are in the process of decaying.

So, I did have to face my fear. I had to clean up around the tree and remove the decaying apples. I throw them into the wooded area behind the house, where the deer come and eat them. I had to pick up the apples and, occasionally, find a bee attached. At first, I was so scared that I quickly threw the apple back on the ground. Then, I realized, if I wore gardening gloves, maybe I would feel braver. I donned my gardening gloves. After raking the apples into piles, I had to… handle the apples.

A few years ago, I left quickly in horror at the sight of the hornets and the yellow jackets. My sister said, “What’s the matter?”

“The apple is… bee-ed!!!” I said, as I quickly found another activity that didn’t involve large bee-like creatures or rapidly decaying apples.

This time, though, I had to remove the apples and I had to ignore the giant hornets and the yellow jackets. I was scared but I had to be brave. As it turned out, the thing that I was most afraid of was the product of my own over-active imagination. I imagined the hornets and yellow jackets to be larger than life creatures from horror movies.

It wasn’t like facing a terrifyingly large Asian giant hornet that can send a person to the hospital with a sting. Our hornets, while big, are not monstrously huge. At this time of year, they are wobbly creatures that, apparently, are drunk on the intoxicating effect of apple juice.

Some people are afraid of spiders but isn’t this guy really cute?

2 thoughts on “Facing fears: the giant hornet!”

  1. I haven't seen these giant hornets, and hope I never will. I have seen fire ants and fire ant mounds back when I lived in Texas – and I am glad we don't have them. Yet. With climate change, who knows? But weren't the regular yellowjackets more numerous than usual this year? They were for us. If I tried to eat lunch outside and escape the office, I couldn't escape them. They zeroed in right on my sandwich (I don't drink sugared soda, either.)

  2. Since I no longer carry a $ 600 epipen, I tend to avoid those wonderful buzzing creatures. Because I prefer to avoid the ER- or more to the point the ICU!

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