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Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Yellow Jacket on the Dogwood Bloom

Yesterday was a Wednesday. It was also April 15. If you live in the US, you know what that means. It's too ugly a thing for me to spell out, but the upshot was that I needed to have Lawrence sit with Bow for the whole day. And while he was here for that long, I asked him to  also weed-eat the backyard and spread the insecticide, because tick and flea season is upon us, not just on the Federal level, but at the grassroots, so to speak.

Bow  in a friendly mood
Bow is always happy and excited to see Lawrence, but that does not keep him from displaying at him for about ten minuted before he will allow Lawrence to come into the pen with him. Fortunately, Lawrence understands Bow very well, and he does not hold this territorial display against him.

Brownie lets Leo do just about anything to him -- except eat his food

I don't like using insecticide, but we do have dogs in the backyard, and if they get fleas and ticks, they could spread to Bow and to me, and that would not be good. So while most of my ten acres are a haven for insects of all sorts, the backyard does get treated. The insecticide comes as a powder that is spread on the lawn, and then it gets wet and sinks into the ground. As this is the rainy season, I am counting on nature to help me with that last part.

This is how the front yard looked yesterday morning

Lawrence told me that he asked Bow to come outside with him to see him work on the lawn, and Bow even said he wanted to go out into the outer pen, but when he got to the door, he realized it was still cold out and changed his mind. Then they went back in, and when Lawrence asked Bow why he didn't want to go out, Bow just spelled. "You go out." Which meant Lawrence had permission to go, and Bow would not play a trick on him when he got back. There was no mess.

The dogwood petals have turned white
When I went out into the back yard late that afternoon, I wanted to inspect Lawrence's handiwork, but I was drawn to the blossoms of the dogwood tree, whose petals by now have turned white.

A lone yellow jacket on the dogwood
I noticed an insect on one of the blossoms, and tried with difficulty to identify it.

The yellow jacket focuses o a little black dot in front of it
It turned out to be a yellow jacket, which my friends warn me can sting very badly. But this lone yellow jacket was not interested in me. It was focused on a little black speck in front of it. Could that have been another, even smaller insect that it wanted to eat?

Yellow jackets look a little like bees, but they do not gather pollen, and they are in fact predatory wasps. No bees are attracted to our beautiful dogwood in bloom, because even though these look just like flowers,the white petal-like things are really bracts, and  the middle part is composed of flower heads that have not opened yet, and there's no pollen there to be had, I wondered if the yellow jacket seemed so passive because of the insecticide we had just scattered on the lawn. I felt a little guilty about that. Yellow jackets may be disliked for their sting, but they do help us by eating other pests.

Part of the end of semester handout for biology

My daughter is taking biology this semester. Looking at her review handout, it reminded me of the weird use of  "community" that certain artistic types make. One of my artist friends criticized some of the artists in her community for being too competitive -- as if there were no place for competition in a community. But the very first concept under "community interactions" in the biology handout is competition. Competition is normal. It is part of what makes a community healthy.

While none of us like parasites, some symbiotic relationships are healthy, as both sides benefit. The trick is to recognize which is which. Sometimes we err. But whatever the community, the concept of balance requires competing forces to be in equilibrium.

It is not possible for everyone to love everyone. It is not possible for a human to give the same consideration to a flea or a tick as to his own children and other non-human dependents. Sometimes a useful yellow jacket may be harmed by an attempt to get rid of parasites. We try to make appropriate distinctions, but mistakes can be made.

Even the story of the helpful wolves introduced into Yellowstone National Park has another side to it.

I am not necessarily endorsing the content of the documentary above, any more than I did that other film sponsored by the establishment that I shared a while back, singing the praises of the wolves. I think it is important to consider many sides of every story.

I like wolves and trees and honey bees and yellow jackets. But I am not a tree hugger, either. I wonder about the agenda behind all these competing nature documentaries. Were the wolves introduced to improve the health of deer and elk? Or were they ultimately meant to trim down the herd of humans grazing on the land?

The real balance in nature comes when we each take care of ourselves and our dependents first. If there are wolves, then there also need to be wolf hunters. If there are parasites, there have to be anti-parasites. For every force there has to be a countervailing force. This is the only way to keep everything in balance.


  1. I do remember a story where some kids were attacked by wolves when these were reintroduced back in parts of Montana. Some say the wolves were not there originally, so maybe it would have been better not to bring them there?

    1. The documentary suggests that the wolves were officially introduced to Yellow Stone Park from Canada, which was their natural habitat, but there was no way to confine them to the borders of the National Park. So they spread to private land in neighboring states. I think this is a part of the story not told by the other, more official documentary that I shared in a previous blog post.

      I don't really have a firm opinion about this yet, but I think it is important to pay attention to all sides of the story. I suspect that the concept of balance is harder for most interventionists to fathom than we might be told.