An exterminator threatens my suburban island

Umbrella Wasp

The doorbell rang. I looked through the window and then stepped onto the porch, where a lanky young man in navy shirt and khakis greeted me. “Hi. My name is Kevin. I wanted to let you know about some work being done on your street tomorrow.”

Road work maybe?

“Your neighbor has a pest problem.”

And I’m sure she appreciates it being advertised.

“We’re helping her. We could help you, too.”

“We’re fine,” I replied. “We don’t have bugs.”
Not a single palmetto bug (giant cockroach). We don’t eat meat, so there’s no carrion smell. We remove the cat dishes as soon as the animals finish eating; wash the dishes before going to bed; take out the trash each evening.

“We do outdoor pests too,” he says. “Get rid of wasps.”

He’s noticed the hive at the garage door.

“The umbrella wasps?!” I picture their home being destroyed, just as they’re completing their work for the season.  “They’re docile.” I wave toward the yard. “I planted all of these flowers for the pollinators!”

“A lot of people think wasps are pollinators,” he continues. “But that isn’t true.”

I know, I know. They’re primarily predators. But they do pollinate inadvertently as they hunt.

“I like the bees and the wasps,” I state flatly.

“We can treat the yard. It’s not a spray. We apply granules…”

And annihilate anything above and below the sod.

I’ve been planting all season. Know for a fact there is no “problem” lurking in the earth. Found a single pupal case, and plenty of earthworms.

I shake my head. Frown in repulsion. “I’m not at war with insects.”

The man retreats without leaving a card.

But I’m left disturbed. Are my neighbors so fearful of the small creatures around them – of any sign of life – that they’d decimate the lot? And with it the balance that keeps us healthy?

Now, I understand why my island habitat is filling so quickly. It’s surrounded by a desert of poisoned sod grass.

And I encounter new immigrants each morning. Sweat bees and skinks. Spiders and monarchs. I can see that my work goes beyond its original intent of adding color to the lawn and repairing bare spots. The hours I spend serve so many – the earthworms, fungi, and beneficial bacterium beneath the soil; the plants; every type of insect imaginable; birds and scurrying reptiles; as well as neighbors who drive slowly by or stop on the sidewalk, to take in the floral painting and gymnastic bumble bees.

This mini-park of mine is slowly reintroducing others to the intricacies of life. And they can see, as I reach among the branches, there’s little chance of harm.

I feel hopeful when they ask what is this plant or that; nod and say, “Maybe I’ll plant one.” Because that’s how it starts. One plant, then two. And as one is drawn into miniature worlds, a desire grows to offer more. To give all that one can. To treat the earth’s wounds and allow them to heal.


Image by Brett Hondow from Pixabay

Published by cafsamsel

Carol Fullerton-Samsel is a nearly-native Floridian who lives with her husband of 25 years and three rescue animals. She has a passion for day-hiking and nature, and also enjoys writing. Be sure to visit the TenPaths YouTube channel, which is still in its infancy.

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