Wednesday, 21 August 2013

'Field Study's Man in E17' is lost for good.

A gloaming -18th August

'Lost and Found in E17' has been renamed 'Lost and Found in E11' and with that change I have decided to call off the search for 'Field Study's Man in E17'. My search and rescue effort has, on the whole, been very poor although there have been a few daring and sustained efforts to find the figment of my imagination wrapped up in that name. 

Last night, for instance, I tackled hordes of marauding wasps - Vespula vulgaris - to see if the field student had resorted to the pleasures of our honey bees' stores. I thought it possible the field student had become a wasp and joined in a bevy of jasper assaults on the hives with the intent of robbing us of our not inconsiderable honey harvest. I smoked, swatted, squashed and shook the wasps away but all the while, in the midst of the frenzy, I kept a keen and protected eye open for the wayward and waspish field student. I was taken aback and alarmed at how many wasps there were in the apiary and the damage they could do. I tried very hard to focus on each wasp's individuality but my patience and tolerance was sorely tried when I felt a searing sensation in my leg that was a wasp stinging me. I swatted the blighter off and stamped on it in anger and frustration. 

I removed all the harvestable honey stores from the apiary and wrapped them in various sheets and bags to try and prevent any more wasps (and bees) getting to them. Each full 'super' (a box/section of a bee hive containing honeycomb frames in which bees store honey) can weigh up to a cumbersome 14Kg and so it was quite a physically demanding task shifting 6 of them around carefully in ways that evaded the opportunist wasps and (some might say) deprived honey bees. The process of harvesting honey involves excluding the honey bees from the 'supers' before their removal from the hive. This action, combined with the old deteriorated state of the hives might account for the ease with which the wasps got into the hives. There were gaps and holes for them to get through and fewer bees to fend them off.

It was late evening by the time I finished dealing with the wasp kerfuffle. As the sun sank into King Georges Reservoir I felt a pleasant coolness when I removed my bee suit; my clothes underneath were saturated with sweat. It was time to get on with the watering, the task I had initially gone to the allotment for that evening. It's August and in the allotment gloaming of this high summertime midges and mosquitoes are legion. As the sun sank so they rose, all intent on a Julian Beere flesh fest - yuck!

I got on with quenching the thirsts of the legumes, brassicas, roots and sub-tropicals while enduring the itchy attentions of pullulating mini-beasties. I was somewhere in the region of a rampant lauki when the itch of the apiary wasp sting returned, asserting itself above the myriad other diminutive bites and stings. It occurred to me that the wasp responsible for the venomous gift was probably none other than 'Field Study's Man in E17 Vulgaris'. I shuddered, a spasm of fear as the imagined venom coursed through my veins. I was immersed in a fantasy of anaphylaxis when I remembered I'd stamped on the stinging wasp. A hot flush of guilt boiled up behind my ears when memories of other stings reminded me I had only received the most shallow of stings owing to the protective layers of clothing. So much for search and rescue; seek and destroy more like!

When I finished the slightly saline irrigation of the site I returned to the apiary and peered into the gloom. Just about discernible were the remains of some the wasps and bees but not the wasp I remembered stamping on. How would I have seen it anyway? I had 'squidged' it (him) into a jasperine pulp. I imagined the gooey mess being devoured by ants and with that grisly image I accepted all that remains of 'Field Study's Man in E17' is his waspish corpse dispersed via the guts of many an ant and, of course, the dwindling venom from that most shallow of pricks. My mind swam in a dizzying cocktail of arthropod juices rendering me incapable of continuing the search.

Welcome, 'Field Study's Man in E11'.     

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