Inch by Inch, Row by Row

This summer I watched an amazing feat of architectural engineering just outside my bedroom window. A colony of wasps built a nest up under the eaves, protected from the wind and rain.

I’m not a fan of wasps, or stinging insects in general. To be honest, my first instinct was to wait until nightfall and spray the hive with insecticide and knock it down in the morning once I was certain the wasps were all dead. But for some reason I decided to leave them be. And I am glad I did, for two reasons:

First, our cat likes to perch on the windowsill at the crack of dawn and wake us up with her incessant meowing as a signal for feeding time. Ever since the wasps showed up, we’ve been sleeping better.

Second, I got to see a wasp hive spring up right in front of my eyes.

In years past, the wasps would build small hives, about the size of a golf ball. They weren’t really even legit hives. They were more like open-ended breeding pods for their baby wasp eggs, and were almost immediately abandoned after the hatch, which made them easy to knock down and throw away. But this years hive is different. It is a full-on covered labyrinth built layer by layer in a weird paper-like material that resembles brown-colored Aspen tree bark.

One Saturday morning I sat (safely inside, of course) and watched the wasps doing their thing. One by one, a wasp would fly in and place a microscopic blob of moist pulp—basically wasp spit mixed with chewed up wood fiber—in neat orderly rows.

Here a little, there a little. One wasp at a time, one tiny blob at a time.

Inch by inch, row by row. All. Day. Long. All. Summer. Long.

Where once there was nothing, now stands a grapefruit-sized bug nest.

I’m sure there is a useful metaphor buried in here somewhere, but for now I’d rather just stand in awe of nature.


Note: That is a photo of the actual hive. Impressive, right?

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