The Mud Dauber Lesson
By J. L. Thurston
I don’t know exactly what triggered my intense fear of bees. I’m not allergic, and this I know from being stung multiple times. I can recall the first time I was stung. I was sitting quietly on a rock with a blindfold on, waiting to start a game of blind-tag at camp. Maybe that initial sting was what caused me to fear- loath, really- bees. I was minding my own business, not swatting, not hurting anyone when that asshole bee ruined my day.
I began to believe all bees only had one purpose; to fuck up everyone’s day. Swarm, sting, die. This fear bled into the almighty bitches of stinging insects- wasps. If it flies and has a stinger, I’m instantly flooded with horror.
I have carried this blood-curdling terror with me my entire life. Any bug that buzzes loudly will make me cringe, jump, and run away. If I see a wasp or a bee, I’m gone with nothing left behind but a smoke silhouette like an ACME cartoon. I’ve thrown phones at wasps in an act of blind terror. I’ve been trapped in a swimming pool because a demonic wasp was hunting me down.
Once, a hornet flew up my pant leg. It buzzed around my knee, stinging me over and over again. I had friends over. Boys. I took my pants off, screaming in pain, in front of those boys. I was thirteen. Part of me died that day.
I love the outdoors, and try not to let the stinging assholes ruin my time. I know bees are important and life would go extinct without them, yadda, yadda, but I still struggle with my fear. Last weekend, we took a family trip down south to a little town called Cave-In-Rock. I didn’t name it, but the grammar Nazi that lives within me wants to call it Cave-In-The-Rock. Sigh.
Cave-In-Rock is amazing. Gorgeous. A hidden gem where your inner hillbilly can really come out of his or her shell. All day every day we were covered in dirt and river mud, swarmed by bugs, baked by the sun, hiking trails unlike anything I’ve seen before. But our cabin was home to the flying monstrous wasps I’ve hated my whole life. My husband killed the first one as it dive-bombed his face. The second one was happy to just chill in the windowsill. My husband tried to squash the evil wasp with a washrag, but instead of killing it the thing just began to buzz with the fury of a hurricane. We had nothing that could reach into the little corner to kill it. I was so afraid I had the front door open, my daughter’s hand in mine, ready to flee if it got out.
We called the rangers to come save us. They came. They saw. They politely informed me that it was not a wasp. It was a thing called a mud dauber. It doesn’t sting.
I think my mind was blown the entire day, if not longer. It doesn’t sting. It doesn’t sting? Why the hell have I been so afraid of those fucking things? I’ve always imagined the stinger those creepy demonic insects must possess. How it probably protrudes out like a spinal needle and can penetrate right into bone. I’ve imagined this in my head so many times for so many years that I convinced myself it was fact.
I’ve been wrong my entire life. I’ve been afraid of these things for absolutely no reason. I’ve had so many killed. And they don’t even sting.
I did research. I watched videos of people proving mud daubers don’t sting. I expanded my research, watching these outdoors guys and gals go into infested rooms and sit calmly without a single attack. I learned the difference between bees, hornets, mud daubers, paper wasps, and on and on. Some are harmless, some are only protecting their homes.
Side note: Hornets are pure assholes from what I’ve gleaned. They’ll sting just for kicks. The thing I thought was a hornet that flew up my pants? Just a yellow jacket, a type of bee that does not lose its stinger. They’re not terribly mean, but I probably scared it when it flew up my jeans and couldn’t get out.
These insects aren’t malicious- except hornets- and my research has taught me that they actually are important little creatures. Many of the insects classified in the wasp family help pollinate. They also eat bugs that would otherwise destroy important plants. And almost all of them, especially in the region we live, won’t mess with you.
And that’s that. I can finally get over my fear of these things. I can hang out in my back yard and watch the mud daubers zoom around knowing I won’t have a two inch stinger thrust into my carotid. Education has won, and I don’t have to fear because I understand. And I won’t pass this irrational fear down to my child. I will teach her that what I once classified to her as “mean bugs that sting for no reason” are just “bugs we need to leave alone so they can do their work.”
Yeah. I’m feeling pretty damn improved, now.
P.S. Don’t do any research on spiders. Those bastards are still scary, and possibly more frightening when you learn more about them. Live and let live, obviously, but let’s just be thankful we’re bigger than they are.