Swat at Your Own Risk!


bee poster

It's that time of the year again, when everyone is swatting at something...mosquitoes, flies, bees, hornets. It's always good though to know what you are swatting at before the actual impact. I learned this years ago while working as a field biologist. It was always a crap shoot as to what I was swatting and sometimes I'd end up squishing something large, with lots of guts. I know. Gross. True story though. Swatting isn't always the best approach. 

Through the years I've trained myself to try and focus on the buzzing creature and then come up with a plan. I admit that I move pretty quickly, in the opposite direction, of insects like yellow jackets and hornets. I get a nasty skin reaction from their stings, i.e., swelling and itching for days!! I react the same to the bees but for some reason their stings aren't as painful (initially) as the latter. I've also never been chased (yet!) by a honey bee, unlike yellow jackets who have always managed to hunt me down in my garden.

So how do you not swat when something with a stinger is headed right for your forehead? Duck! Ha. I'm not sure that ducking or swinging, dancing or swatting are the answers. I do know that staying calm and figuring out what is actually buzzing around your head does help. In other words, it pays to educate yourself on the insects you might find in your yard or garden. After all, some may be beneficial.

I remember years ago when I lived in Wisconsin. There would always be these amazing mayfly hatches. I was at a gas station one night, and the lights above the gas pumps highlighted the buttery yellow mayflies below. They looked like drunk little fairies whirling around in the light. While I was staring in a hypnotic state at the flutter of translucent wings, a man pulled up next to me.

He was clearly passing through, and as he exited his pickup truck, he immediately started stomping and swatting, like a two-year old having a fit. I couldn't help but have a silent chuckle over his volatile and erratic gestures. 

Eventually, I couldn't help myself and kindly blurted out, "They won't hurt you. They don't even have mouth parts. They only live to breed and then they die." I extended my hand towards him, a mayfly on the end of it. "See, it won't hurt you." He didn't say much. In fact, I think he simply grunted at me and stared in fascination at the alien holding the drunk fairy.

Needless to say he controlled his flailing body, sort of, pumped his gas, and probably never set foot back in the 'cheese state' again. This is not to say that it was his fault that he did not know this fact about mayflies, or that it was a spectacle that people flocked to see that time of year. It does pay though to take a moment to figure out what it is that might be visiting your flower patch, beneficial or not. 

Whether it is a bee or a wasp, a mayfly or a butterfly, bee kind and try not to swat. Grab a field book, grab your phone. Snap a picture and run in the house for cover if you have to. Figure out what it is. Learn why it's there. Tell your kids, tell your friends. You might be surprised how curious people are to learn just what that giant buzzing creature was that just went zooming by.

And you never know, it might be the bug that eats the bigger bug, that you really don't like. Or it might be a drunk fairy stopping by for a dance in the street lights. Either way, stay calm and swat at your own risk!

(The Swat Dance)

Definition: An uncontrollable and erratic behavior exhibited by humans when winged creatures, a fraction of their size, fly in or near their air space.


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