The wasps know me. This may sound like a crazy thing to say but I have proof. First, though, I should explain that I have a serious problem with wasps. Granted I don’t know anyone who likes wasps, and Craig Ferguson summed it up perfectly when he called them “the skinheads of the insect world”. For me, though, it gets weirdly personal because I have a strange affinity with spiders. Most people don’t like spiders any more than they like wasps, but for most it’s just a feeling of disgust when they see a spider. According to The Book Of The Spider by Paul Hillyard approximately 5% of people have arachnophobia, which can be a seriously debilitating condition. People with genuine arachnophobia think about spiders when there are no spiders around. They go to extreme lengths to protect themselves from nonexistent spiders. Just talking about spiders makes people with arachnophobia jumpy. And I’m probably responsible for giving some people arachnophobia because once in a theater during the film Arachnophobia a friend and I threw handfuls of rubber spiders into the audience, but that’s another story.
Hillyard thinks that there’s a spectrum—that at one end there are 5% or so who have arachnophobia and at the other end there are probably 5% or so who have the exact opposite. I’m pretty sure I’m in that 5% and while it seems like the term should be arachnophilia that sounds like something completely different. It sounds like I want to have sex with spiders. Even if that were physically possible I wouldn’t . Yes, Charlotte’s Web will always be one of my favorite books and, as I’ve said before, I wish Wilbur had been turned into bacon and sausage and Charlotte had been the one to live to a ripe old age, but I only ever wanted Charlotte as a friend.
If you’re wondering what any of this has to do with wasps it’s this: wasps are the deadly enemy of spiders. Spiders mostly eat insects but wasps are one of the few insects that turn that around and eat spiders.
They’re also the skinheads of the insect world and even if I didn’t have such a deep love of spiders that alone would be justification for killing every wasp I see. And I don’t just kill wasps. I get brutal. I’ve emptied a whole can of insecticide on a single wasp. In my defense it just kept coming and even when it tried to get away I knew it might come back so I kept spraying and when that was done I stomped on it. Then I set it on fire.
That might have been a little extreme, but something happened to me that’s made me think the feeling is mutual on the wasps’ part. I was standing in line at the grocery store and I felt something tickle my neck. I thought it was just an ordinary itch so I reached up and scratched. That’s when my fingers brushed a carapace. Then I heard a buzz in my ear. I turned and saw a wasp flying away.
I still don’t know exactly when the sting happened but by the time I got to the car there was a burning sensation in my neck. By the time I got home I could feel it swelling. By the time the groceries were put away I had a pustule the size of a bowling ball sticking out of my neck.
In the mirror it was only a little bump the size of my fingernail but I’m convinced the mirror was conspiring with the wasps.
I applied a series of cold compresses and after an excruciating quarter of an hour the swelling and pain disappeared, but even though that was months ago every little itch makes me jumpy. And for a while my keyboard was making a buzzing sound that drove me crazy. I’m terrified of wasps even when there are no wasps around.
The scientific name for wasps is Hymenoptera so while it seems like the term should be hymenophobia that sounds like something completely different.