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July 16, 2002: Thin

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On the way down to Berkeley on Sunday afternoon for our lunch picnic with Beth, Sabs, and Victor, we stopped at the grocery store to get whipped topping for the pie I'd made (peach!) and bottles of flavored water for the drive. As is usual, they had their seasonal goodies displayed right by the door. That day the top shelf was overflowing with huge stuffed animals - lions, hippos, and one huge blue stuffed elephant.

Richard declared that Victor needed that elephant, no matter that the toy is easily 3 or 4 times as long as Victor is at present. So when we left the store, we left with a huge fuzzy blue elephant tucked under one arm. Because every child needs at least one toy that's larger than they are. And even more important, every child needs an elephant.

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The exterminator came out this afternoon to take care of the wasps. Richard went home early from work to meet him and to report all the excitement to me over instant messenger. After he did a tour of the entire property, the exterminator reported that not only did we have the five nests on the house; we also had two more on the fence. Our property, it seems, had become a veritable wasp haven.

He sprayed all of them and then knocked down the nests - or at least the ones he could reach - once they were 'dead'. The ones tucked under the eaves in the second story are still there for us to deal with in the future, when we can get a tall enough ladder and a long enough broom (and they *will* be coming down - I don't need that little bit of paranoia every time I look up there now, wondering which nests were the old ones and which could be new ones). He took most of the nests with him, but because I had apparently done a marvelous job attacking the ones on the front porch with the spray, he left that one behind at my request.

The nest was much smaller once on the ground, and nowhere near as foreboding. It had broken into two pieces, but I could easily make them match together again. In my hand it had no weight at all - a honeycomb built of grey tissue paper, fragile enough to flake easily when I touched the edges with one fingertip. The inner part of the nest was covered, but in places where that had been ripped away, we could see the tiny bodies of wasp larvae carefully tucked into each cell where they might once have been able to grow to full size.

Apparently when the exterminator was spraying the ones at the highest point of the roof, he told Richard that it was "raining wasps". Richard later found one lone wasp, curled onto the driveway, giving its final death twitch. This makes me feel more than just a little guilty about having to have them all killed. They weren't at all aggressive, and they would have eventually all flown away, leaving their nests behind. They weren't bothering anyone, and the flowers seemed to appreciate all their attention. But paper wasps chew things, and can do significant damage. They can chew through wood; through drywall. They could have gotten into the walls.

We know better now, about wasps. From now on we'll both be doing a lot more checking under the peaked eaves. And next time hopefully we'll catch them when the nests are just starting, to knock them down with brooms or water spray and encourage them to build somewhere else. I don't like the thought of having to kill them like this. But if it comes to a choice between the wasps and this house, well, they simply don't stand a chance.

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