I have a plant on my deck that I could not coax back to life. I watched it whither over the last two years, and attempts to resuscitate it with organic fertilizers and pep talks did no good, it finally succumbing to the elements and my black thumb. The plant, though still technically dead, has had new life breathed back into it.

You see, the day I finally reconciled myself to its death and the need for its eminent disposal, I noticed activity within the stiff branches and crispy leaves of my plant. Upon further inspection, I discovered the beginnings of what I initially thought to be a bee’s nest. It was in its infancy, with the queen working ferociously to build the small nest that would eventually house the larvae she would feed and protect and would grow into her colony.

I instinctively recoiled upon this initial inspection, my reaction being one I suppose most have when they discover something that has the potential to harm them residing a little too close for comfort. But I let my curiosity get the best of me, and watched with fascination as one of nature’s great displays of life unfolded before my eyes.

Over the course of the summer, as the tiny nest grew, the activity surrounding it did as well. The workers flew in and out all day, bringing food home to the larvae, which will hatch new queens, as well as reproductives and males. I begin to feel protective of this little nest, which got a little bigger everyday, and so I instructed my husband to leave it alone as well as anyone venturing onto the deck that may become alarmed and take a shovel or bat to the colony. I also did a little homework, looking up my buzzing friends on the internet, only to discover that what I was allowing to cultivate in my deceased plant was not a beehive, but a colony of yellow-jackets, which belong to the wasp family of insects.

I know what some are thinking. Are you nuts?!??! Keeping a yellow-jacket colony on your deck where you entertain people and your pets sleep? But I must share something with you. The yellow-jackets not only have never stung me, they have become quite calm in my presence. Initially, when I would get close to inspect them, the workers would swarm a bit and I would back off, being of a curious nature but not a stupid or arrogant one. I have a healthy respect for nature, and am aware of not only its ability to create profound beauty but also to inflict deadly consequences when one underestimates it. I had noticed that one or two of the workers had died, becoming ensnared in the surrounding spider webs that sometimes entombed their nest. I learned to take a long stick and gently clean away the spider webs (but never the spider nests, which co-existed quite peacefully alongside the wasps). Eventually they stopped flying about when I came near, and just continued to go about their business, me and my husband no longer being a threat to their existence. I understand my situation is different from some, and anyone with small children or rambunctious dogs should seek removal of nests if they are located in an area where they could be disturbed. Fortunately, I have neither of these concerns.

As the summer progressed, I took great delight in seeing my backyard explode with flowers and fruit for the first time in years. Some of this can most likely be attributed to the extremely mild summer we had and the proliferation of rain, but I like to think that there was another element that contributed to this lushness. While yellow-jackets are not prolific pollinators, “because they lack the pollen-carrying structures of bees, they can be minor pollinators when visiting flowers” (courtesy of Wikipedia). The wasps were busy all summer, racing from fig tree to flowering bushes to fruit trees, something we had never had before in our yard. Previous year’s attempts to coax flowers out of bushes and fruits from trees produced somewhat lackluster results. Our backyard resembles something of a jungle right now, and I give full credit where I believe credit to be due.

We had some sprinkler issues this summer, and I showed the person we use to repair our sprinklers and other landscape issues the colony. I was certain he was going to offer advice on how to get rid of it, so imagine my surprise when he told me “I have turned down work because people have asked me to destroy the nests. People have no idea how important these insects are to our survival”. He will get all of our business for as long as he is in this line of work. We went on to have a discussion about nature and our systematic destruction of it if we feel it is somehow not in sync with our needs or somehow gets in our way. That many feel the yellow-jackets are “pests” and not a crucial part of the delicate balance of life. We are their worst natural enemy.

You see, we could learn a lot from yellow-jackets. They have a collective goal, which is to work together to support the survival of the species. A hive is like its own little world. Could you imagine if the hundred or so yellow-jackets could not agree on a religion and started waging war against each other? What if some of the yellow-jackets did not like the way some other yellow-jackets’ stripes were colored and committed acts of violence on them? What if some of the yellow-jackets came from a different country and the other yellow-jackets refused to allow them to work? What if one of the workers, who does not reproduce anyway, not that it matters, liked a yellow-jacket of the same sex and the other yellow-jackets kicked it out? You know what would happen? The queens would die. The workers would die. The reproductives would die. The nest would die. Ultimately, the species would die.

The nest never got very big and is still active. I just checked on it and the workers are coming out of hiding after the rains, wiping themselves off and flying about. I have covered up the plant and nest with a plastic deck chair to protect it from the rain, but I know that the end is near. The workers have slowed down, their task being almost complete. The nest will eventually become dormant, along with the workers. The queens will go on to “winterize” and build new nests elsewhere. I am saddened now as I see the little colony in the autumn of its life, but I am extremely happy to have witnessed this miracle of nature and learn a little something along the way. I also will keep my old dead plant, because I’ve enjoyed hosting the yellow-jackets, and I hope they or maybe a new colony will know that they can always call my deck home.


antigeekess Oct. 20, 2010 @ 6:49 p.m.

Aw, this is sweet, Grantie. Well written and a nice read. The little buggers got lucky when they picked you for a host.

Your black thumb turned out to be a good thing after all. :)


MsGrant Oct. 20, 2010 @ 8:28 p.m.

Thanks, anti. No one will read it, but it sits on my deck untouched and full of Clint Eastwood.


David Dodd Oct. 20, 2010 @ 8:30 p.m.

Awesome. Reminds me of Kingsolver's "Poisonwood Bible", where the missionaries couldn't figure out why the seeds they planted and the plants that grew from those seeds weren't bearing anything. Well, duh, the insects from other continents didn't know what those strange plants were and didn't pollinate them! Great lessons in something we take for granted.


MsGrant Oct. 21, 2010 @ 8:12 a.m.

I like when you see the "bigger" picture, refried. Thanks for reading.


nan shartel Oct. 22, 2010 @ 10:44 a.m.

what a perfect Darwinian piece Grantie...i'm sorry this wasn't on the front page longer and glad i got a tip to go read it..nature know it's pace and place in our large complicated Universe...

all insects know how to recreated their own beneficial Universe :-}

and ur deck was all the more rewarded for it...and ur yard of flowers and trees 2

how interesting Refried to know that American insects didn't recognize European plants...i've never read the "Poisonwood Bible"...Barabara Kingsolver is a wonderful author

all of nature it seems has an internal blueprint it would do us good to understand and pay attention 2

i recommend the book "Hidden Messages in Water" to continue this extraordinary journey into enlightenment

wonderful blog hunnypants..brava!!


MsGrant Oct. 22, 2010 @ 11:22 a.m.

Thanks, Nan!! Important messages can materialize from the simplest things. Thank you for the book recommend. And Refried's as well. I need some enlightenment to take my mind off all these horrible campaign ads!!


nan shartel Oct. 22, 2010 @ 12:27 p.m.

some candidates could take a few lessons from ur yellow jackets Grantie

and many could use a good stinging ;-)


David Dodd Oct. 22, 2010 @ 6:26 p.m.

Nan, I wholeheartedly recommend "Poisonwood Bible", it's funny that some of my snobbish literary pals look at me as though I were nuts, but that novel is stellar in many respects. The missionaries were Americans, actually, and they trekked to Africa. One thing that Kingsolver seems to have successfully pulled off is that the novel was written in multiple narrative (think Faulkner's "As I Lay Dying"). I would never attempt such an aggressive and difficult format, yet she pulled me right into the novel and I think I read it front to back in about a day. Next time you're book shopping, get it, you won't be disappointed.


MsGrant Oct. 22, 2010 @ 7:33 p.m.

I'm ordering it as we speak. Refried and nan, do either of you own a Kindle or similar device? I am on the fence but I read so much - would it be sacrilege for me to go new age?


David Dodd Oct. 22, 2010 @ 8:32 p.m.

I've never considered an e-reader. I love the pulp, the feel of pages turning. But many of my friends enjoy them.


Founder Oct. 23, 2010 @ 9:14 a.m.

Reply #9 & #10 I have the original kindle and LOVE the removable SD card, which the later models do not have. Now with prices about half of the initial cost they are a great way to take lots of books with you in a tiny package.

No more traveling (+ paying extra baggage fees) with a suitcase full of BOOKS:-)

BTW: Here is a link that explains how to get millions of free eBooks at no cost that will download just like amazon directly to your new eBook Reader: http://www.gutenberg.org/wiki/Main_Page

Last edited by the author on Jun 7, 2008 12:14 PM PDT T. Beck says: Some have expressed a lack of content for the Kindle, here is what I have tried, and works (make sure you check the footnotes at the bottom):

www.amazon.com 95,000 or so titles, instant download, easy.

www.gutenberg.org 20,000 or so titles - mostly classics or things that no longer have copywrite. Multiple languages. Three are links to other sites that boast a total of 100k titles. , *

www.worldlibrary.net 400,000 titles - classics, modern, government, multiple languages, all the ones I tried were free. Requires $8.95 yearly subscription fee, consider it the cost of a library card., ,

www.fictionwise.com offers both unencrypted and encrypted .mobi files. Full range of reading and many free books as well. , , *

www.mobipocket.com lots of titles, most you can find on amazon.com in the Kindle section for less.

www.webscriptions.net This is Baen books and mostly SiFi. None are encrypted, many are free, and can be transferred directly to your Kindle. Choose Kindle compatible for the download. ****

www.wowio.com uses .pdf format. **, You will need to register and can download up to three books a day, free. Only available to people in the US, due to copyright and licensing restrictions.

www.fictionpress.com 900,000 Mostly original works, as in unknown, normally unpublished authors. Some good, some not, take your chances, you may discover the next JK Rowling. Displays in text. Cut, paste and email to yourself, or save in .txt file and upload.

www.manybooks.net 20,000 titles or so. Has a Kindle format. , *

www.mnybks.net - an extension of Manybooks above, but if you access it through the basic WebBrowser in Kindle, you can download directly to your Kindle, the way you would an Amazon book. Choose the Mobipocket format.

www.feedbooks.com Share books, self published books and a make it yourself newspaper. With a little manipulation of the tools below, you can get your own newspaper, you could probably even directly email it to your Kindle in the morning if you allow that site to send you stuff. You will need to register, but there is no cost. There is now a "Kindle Download Guide" from www.feedbooks.com includes links to many classics, including many in foreign languages.

www.ccel.org Christian centered works. Available in pdf, word, and text, all readily transferable to your Kindle.


Founder Oct. 23, 2010 @ 9:14 a.m.

Second part

http://www.munseys.com about 25,000 books, classic and contemporary. Download in a variety of formats.

  • They save as .pdf files that you can email to your Kindle. It sees the .pdf as a file of words, not pictures of words, so it can be resized and adjusted just as any other ebook. Download the book to your PC, and email that file to your Kendle, or [email protected] and load through the USB cable if you want to save the 10 cent conversion charge.

** For the encrypted ones in .mobi, a tool can be used to allow the kindle to see it. This tool does not make a copy of the book, merely adds a flag so that the Kendle can display it (it would be hard to call this a violation of copywrite or use conditions since both formats are amazon's). The tool and directions on how to use it are at: http://igorsk.blogspot.com/2007/12/mobipocket-books-on-kindle.html

*** Site runs on donations

**** Can be downloaded directly to your Kindle when it is plugged in as an external storeage device, simply specify the Kindle folder when selecting where to put your book.


MsGrant Oct. 23, 2010 @ 10:45 a.m.

Wow, Founder, thanks!! That's a lot of information. I really appreciate it. It is very tempting. Like Refried, I like the feel of a book. But the convenience and all these cool links......I may just have to cave.


nan shartel Oct. 23, 2010 @ 2:19 p.m.

i'm old...like paper...and printing...the yellower the pages the better...my prize books r dog-eared...and i wouldn't have them any other way!!

i even rebound a first edition of Robbie Burns Poems..i'm a hopeless literary romantic

Refried i ordered it yesterday used from Amazon...YIPPEE!!!

i have to ask forgiveness for Faulkner being one of my faves (even tho he's consider the first most important Writer of American Letter in the 20th Century) so i know i'll love it and thx for the FYI

founder ur such a smart one homey and the tech ways to read r so up and coming

~~just stick my old paperback in my pocket and go is my ma manière de lire~~


nan shartel Oct. 23, 2010 @ 2:20 p.m.

maybe i'll check out the Kindlecave 2 Grantie ;-{}

that was so nice of u 2 put all those links up Founder


Founder Oct. 23, 2010 @ 2:53 p.m.

Reply #13, #14 & #15 You can get free eReader Apps for your computer, PDA and smart phone and try reading on them first if you want but the kindle's screen is very "paperback book" like and the ability to change font size on the fly is wonderful if you like to read without glasses...

Borders also has an eReader free App and gives some free eBooks away... (sort price low to high for the free eBooks)



nan shartel Jan. 16, 2011 @ 4:49 p.m.

hey i did finally read the Poisonwood Bible...it was deep and fab...thx RFG!!!


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