December 23, 2009

There is a picture of this year’s Judy Christmas tree in our living room, and lying on a stool, a hornets’ nest harvested from one of our front yard trees this week- AFTER the temperature went well below freezing, so all hornets huddling inside were totally dead from natural causes.  The miraculous queen, who had laid the hundreds of eggs that became working members of her domain, had left the nest without telling anyone, and had found a slightly warmer hideout where she could sleep and survive the winter cold. 

She will awaken come spring, and start creating another hornet colony, with efficient female workers who will build a new nest somewhere nearby, primarily filled with several floors of nurseries, containing thousands of hexagon shaped cells, in each of which she will deposit an egg.  The worker lady hornets will maintain the correct temperature and humidity to hatch the tiny egg the queen will place in the nursery cell, and provide food that they will gather to the fledgling hornets, until hundreds develop into flying hornets. The nest started small, because the queen knew she would need a lot of protected workers to fulfill her destiny of continuation of the species.

The nests are made of chewed up plant fibers, formed into very thin, paper-like material, and ventilation holes allow air movement – on hot summer days, the workers will flutter their wings to provide cool air movement to the nurseries. The nests are usually hung in trees, suspended by attachments to limbs or branches.  The engineering is amazing – and this year’s higher than normal rainfall, sort of washed away the thin, but solid bottom floor of the nursery, exposing the nursery cells of that level.  Insects are amazing, interesting, and it is very pleasant to learn more about them.  Some of them I hate, but many of them I admire, and appreciate very much what they do for us humans.  Our lives wouldn’t amount to much without their presence, but I don’t love them all.  We should all learn more about them, and how to control those we dislike.

There is a debate in some circles about whether humans or insects will once rule the earth, having eliminated the other, completely.  I think humans can learn more easily than insects – look at how much new computer and cell phones have advanced – far beyond our use and understanding!  I don’t think insects can think and reason – they seem to be born with all the knowledge and habits they will ever need in their lifetime.  The females do nearly all the work, a few males finally get off their easy chairs and compete to see which the queen female will allow to follow her off into the sunset to start the next short lived generation of her slaves, all of whom she will abandon when living gets tough!  As a result, they never have a family Christmas!

Our human children are more nearly equal – when they arrive, and we have at least two active adults helping them learn and mature.  Some of our families have better adults, and they usually eventually produce good, mature, helpful adult members of our society.  Every generation of most insects follow the same monotonous pattern through life.  When conditions are right, we should know that mosquitoes will soon be laying their wriggly eggs in stagnant water, and that some mosquitoes will transmit terrible diseases to whatever human offers them a place to inject that disease while sipping our blood, and we should know enough to prevent them from accomplishing that, because that information is available.

The insect populations have some wonderful, amazing abilities – but they lack the wonderful human family associations and accomplishments. We hope your parents, your childhood, and your maturity were all productive and pleasant, and that sharing Christmas greetings, memories, and family gatherings, are celebrated annually with great joy and appreciation.  Why not wish each member of your family and all your friends another Merry Christmas, and another Happy New Year. Don’t greet this season like an insect, without spreading joy and good will.  .  .  and, especially.  .  .  Good gardening

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