July 23, 2011

A sting in the tale

One of the oaks in Brockwell Park has had a ring of barriers placed around it. A sign explains that the 'facility' (that's the tree) is 'closed' due to an active wasps' nest, which is awaiting fumigation.

Leaving aside the Orwellian linguistics of this notice, I'd like to consider the further implications. Why has the barrier been erected, and why is the nest being fumigated?

Lambeth Council is clearly worried that someone will be stung by a wasp and then sue them for negligence in failing to control the behaviour of every wild creature in its parks and green spaces. Sadly, encouraged largely by the relaxation of rules concerning compensation, we now believe that there is no such thing as an accident, and someone can be found to blame for everything – even an insect bite.

Hence, the barrier. But why are the wasps to be killed? A quick Google search of 'why kill wasps' returns thousands of results – all of them answering the question 'HOW to kill wasps', as though the question of why is so obvious as not to need answering. Many sites even ask, 'What is the point of wasps?' – as though every living thing must have a point, must be useful to us in some way. To which I'd say: 'Your children: what is the point?'

You many bridle, but the fact is that life needs no point, and wasps are part of the ecosystem in just the same way we are. They have a perfect right to exist, but to those who insist on some kind of utility, it's worth bearing in mind that not only are they extremely efficient pest controllers, but they're pollinators, too. And we really can't afford to lose any more of those.