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Home truths.

Byline: By Anna Morrell

As luck would have it, a beekeeper was standing in the queue at the chemist's while I was making inquiries about the best way to treat wasp stings.

"Forget all these chemical concoctions ( lavender oil's the stuff you need ( one drop undiluted on the sting!" she piped up.

Not being one to turn down expert advice, I immediately pocketed a small bottle of the essential oil and popped it into my emergency first aid kit, which used to be a handbag.

Count yourself lucky if you have not actually eaten a wasp in the past few weeks.

I've come pretty close to it on more than one occasion.

Not content with throwing one of the wettest Augusts on record at us this year, it seems Nature is intent on confining us to barracks with a late-summer wasp plague, the like of which has not been seen since the Great Ladybird Invasion of 1976 (does anyone else remember this ( are you still suffering from the childhood trauma of having to tread on scores of the friendly six-spotted bugs while hunting for a matchbox to put one in?)

My first thought on being besieged by wasps while trying to fry sausages over an unstable gas camp stove, was that I'd unwittingly pitched the tent right under a wasp nest.

They were swarming in every nook and cranny. I was almost at the point of decamping to the other side of the field when I noticed people were flapping madly and screaming loudly over there too.

A week of outdoor living later and I was learning to stay inside, set jam traps and keep the windows tightly closed. The joys of cream teas and crab salads ( apparently wasps are carnivorous ( in rose-rambling cafe gardens held about as much appeal as picnicking on the Western Front.

Yet throughout the initial onslaught I remained a model of composure in front of the children.

"Just stay perfectly still and don't scream," was the sensible advice I would issue as wasp after wasp tickled their noses and ears and landed bold as brass on their Strawberry Splits. And they would stand like statues until the danger had passed, usually to someone who'd flap and cry like a demon possessed until she deserved to be stung. We brushed them off sandwiches and helpfully steered them out of windows.

But all my good intentions went out of the window after my son was stung on the earlobe for no apparent reason. I wasn't sure whether to call an ambulance or sue animal-rights organisations. But there was no mercy after that.

Out came the rolled up newspaper and wasp-swotting became the new holiday sport. How we cheered as we cornered them in the window frames and threw their mangled corpses victoriously, one after another into the bin.

"I hate wasps," my son declared, threatening one with a drop of lavender oil, which he now sees as the solution for everything. "They're not cuddly like bees. They don't even die when they sting you."

I'd forgotten that. That's the sort of information all kids know backwards but adults are a bit shaky on. The bee is a noble creature and one that likes lavender too ( why, they even make honey out of it. The honey we spread on our bread which the wasps are so fond of. So perhaps the lavender is the real sting in the tail after all.
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Sep 10, 2004
Words:573
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