There isn’t much about the natural world that doesn’t spark wonder in Michael Ellis, but there’s one creature he can’t abide.
I love nearly all the creatures that inhabit our planet. For me a banana slug is the epitome of grace and form, the naked head and see-through nostrils of a turkey vulture excites me like that of no other bird, and even the lowly opossum has a kind of inner beauty that I find touching.
But as a card-carrying naturalist I must reluctantly confess a deep-seated dislike for yellow jackets. Sorry.
I assume this antagonism dates from my early childhood. As a wee lad of five I ventured too close to a hive and was promptly attacked and repeatedly stung in the ear and head. Over and over. As a teen-ager I would often push the lawn mower over yellow jacket nests and get stung. They often build their paper nests underground in abandoned gopher holes. And once, while I was riding my motorcycle, a yellow jacket flew into my mouth and stung my tongue. I grew to hate them.
This summer there have been a lot of yellow jackets, for some reason, in my backyard. Unlike our useful honey bees, yellow jackets sometimes sting without provocation. I've seen them just land on a hand and zap the person. As if this weren't bad enough, they then release a chemical that attracts all of the other yellow jackets in the neighborhood.