It was for once a sunny and dry day and my husband and I used the opportunity to do some much-needed gardening. He mowed the lawn while I weeded the flower beds.
Suddenly my husband gave me a shout over the noise of the lawnmower, asking me to pull away the spotted loosestrife that was hanging over the wooden flower box on the other side of the lawn so that he could pass.
Not a problem. I jumped over there and lifted the flowers, concentrating on holding them up high, not realizing where that stinging sensation came from. Does spotted loosestrife have thorns?
“Ah, Eygló…” my husband said, his eyes widening in terror. “What?” I asked in surprise before noticing the suicidal army of wasps coming from underneath the flowers, going for my legs.
The sight kicked me into motion and we sprinted for the backdoor, my husband a few steps ahead of me. I wasn’t fast enough for the wasps which kept attacking me with their venomous stings.
I tried to brush the wasps off my skimpy leggings but they were everywhere, with one still clinging to the fabric after I finally made it inside.
Once I’d shooed it back outside, I let out a sigh of relief. That wasn’t too bad… or so I thought until the stings started to smart. My God did my thighs hurt!
My husband—who by the way didn’t get a single sting—was sweet enough to rush to the pharmacy to get me a cream to soothe my aching skin.
Meanwhile, with revenge on my mind, I called an exterminator who luckily was available that very evening.
A curious guy, who has a serious allergy to wasps but somehow gets a kick out of being in the face of danger, he poisoned the buggers, making sure none got out of the hornet’s nest alive.
The apparently huge colony had been hidden behind the wooden flower box and its residents, a particularly aggressive species, he said, had not been pleased with our presence at all.
On the one hand, I’m sorry to have destroyed such an elaborate construction as a hornet’s nest but on the other, it’s impossible to have one in my yard, with the risk of wasps attacking everyone that comes too close. It can be right out dangerous for small kids.
When I’m traveling abroad I’m routinely targeted by mosquitoes and other blood-sucking creatures. I’ve even been bitten by a spider but I’ve never been attacked by wasps before.
Even though I know they’ve become increasingly unwelcome residents in Icelandic gardens, it didn’t occur to me that I would be in the line of fire in my own backyard.
The upside of living in a rather cold country is the lack of bugs and I remember clearly when there were neither wasps nor bees in Iceland. Then one day in the early 1990s, I think, I noticed that they had arrived.
However, Iceland has luckily remained mosquito-free so far, although it might be just a matter of time before they settle the country too
Is it global warming that’s causing the increase in bugs, I wonder, or is it just that with Iceland being an island it took a while for them to be carried here?
There are other changes too, though, most noticeably in the ocean where mackerel is increasing its presence and is considered a possible reason for the lack of sandeels, which again leads to failed nesting in seabird stocks such as puffins and Arctic terns.
The arrival or disappearance of a species can have quite a wide-reaching chain reaction as do other changes to the biosphere, such as the melting of glaciers. In a few decades, let alone centuries, Iceland may be a totally different country from what it is today.
Back in my yard, by the time the buzzing in the hornet’s nest had gone quiet, darkness had fallen and it was too late to finish mowing the lawn and weeding the flower beds.
The next day the rainfall resumed—no sign of global warming in these parts this summer—and it has rained every day since.
The lawn looks ridiculous in its half-mowed state but we can’t really finish the job when the grass is all wet. Fingers crossed it will be sunny as forecast tomorrow and please, may there be no more wasp attacks.
Eygló Svala Arnarsdóttir – firstname.lastname@example.org