Tuesday, 28 May 2019

In Defense of the Wasp

I've decided to do a post about a much maligned insect. The Wasp.

We all know the nuisance black and yellow striped creature that buzzes round us when we want to eat outside, and I've heard it said, 'What is the purpose of wasps?'

Well, here it is. Something that I hope will help to mollify your thoughts on the creatures.

I was brought to thinking of them last September when I got stung. In all fairness, it wasn't the wasp's fault. Well, not entirely, anyway. I saw one in my daughter's bathroom and decided to let it out of the window. I failed to get it out, and it must have ended up on my clothes, just under my arm, so when I put my arm down, it stung in self defense. Still, it didn't half hurt, and continued to do so for days!
What we think of as wasps (and hornets), those black and yellow terrors of picnics, are not the only insects to be classified as wasps. Wasps belong to the order of insects called Hymenoptera and there are over a hundred thousand species.

The black and yellow terrors are communal insects. They build nests of a papery substance created from wood. It usually begins in the spring when a queen lays eggs that hatch into workers. The workers are all female, and their ovipositors are what have become their stings.

Each spring, a new queen that has hibernated over winter, begins to build a new nest, built of wood she has chewed up and mixed with saliva. Then she lays a few eggs. She has to forage herself for food for the hatched grubs until they become adult worker wasps.

These wasps only become a real nuisance in the late summer when the queen has stopped laying and not more workers are being produced. They search for food—sweet, sugary substances usually—and that is when they come into contact with humans. And we don’t like it. Most of the rest of the year, they are happily capturing insects and feeding on nectar from flowers. They are important pollinators. Not something most people consider, but with the problems with the bee population recently, perhaps we should consider them more kindly.

Most wasps are not social, though, and live a solitary life. Some live in communities, with nests close to each other, but do not interact, except to sometimes steal each others’ prey. Some species actually build communal nests, but each adult wasp has her own cell, and there is no division of labour or community work. The females each catch and feed their own grubs.

The prey of these wasps is spiders and insects. They feed them to the grubs, which are carnivorous, but the adults usually feed on nectar. As such, they are useful to help get rid of unwanted insect pests.
Then there are the parasitic wasps. They lay their eggs in the body of the prey animal. The grubs then eat their way through the insides of the poor creature. Others lay their eggs in the tissue of plants. The plant responds by creating a gall around the growing grub.


I admit I’m not the most generous of people to wasps. It'’ mow spring, and the queens are coming out to find a place to build their nests. Just this morning, while I was working at my computer, I heard a buzzing by the open window. It disappeared, but returned soon after. This happened several times and so I got up to investigate. A wasp was clearly inspecting the brickwork around my window. It then had the temerity to enter and start to look around my husband’s computer.

I went downstairs and got the Wasp and Fly killer and zapped it as it went back to the window. (I didn’t want to spray the killer onto my husband’s computer, just in case! I’ve no idea what it might do to it.) I might know they are important predators and pollinators, but I don’t want hundreds of them just outside the room where I work.

So please spare a thought for the poor wasp. They aren't as useless as you thought.

Please add a comment to the comments box to tell me what you think of these insects.

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Spring. A Poem

Dandelions, like gold, cover the meadows.
Newborn lambs frolic in fields.
New leaves on the trees are casting their shadows
And winter’s cold grip quickly yields.
At the edges of woodland the primroses glow
And cowslips their scent fills the air.
Anemones dance when the breezes do blow
And birds sing with never a care.
Then bluebells and campions come into bloom
Their colour the blue of the sea.
The cuckoo, that herald of spring, will come soon
His call echoing over the lea.
The song of the blackbird is like molten gold.
His notes are so pure and so clear.
Hearing him seems to banish the cold
And brings joy to all those who hear.
Robin is nesting, and other birds too,
The hedgehog is active once more.
The young of the deer and the badger and shrew
Play their games as in old days of yore.
The sun climbs higher and higher each day
Giving more of his heat and his light.
It sparkles like stars fallen into the bay.
All smile at the beautiful sight.
Hope and excitement come with each spring morn.
What blessings will come with this day?
New starts can begin once again with each dawn
And send us all hopeful away.

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

10 Words to Avoid in Writing or Speech.

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1. Obviously. This word is one that is unnecessary. If something is obvious, it does not need stating.

2. So. Lots of people open sentences with ‘so’. It usually has no meaning and is just a filler word. Someone asks a question ‘Why did you go to see Jason yesterday?’ , and the response is ‘So. I haven’t seen him for ages and wondered if he’s all right.’

3. Very unique. Unique means there is only one of it. Adding ‘very’ is meaningless. As is adding other qualifiers.

4. Just. Unless you are talking about the judicial system, ‘just’ is another filler word. We often say ‘I was just going to do it.’ Don’t write it.

5. Very. You should try to find stronger word. Don’t say ‘very big’ use ‘enormous’. ‘Huge,’ etc. The English language, thanks to the way it’s developed, is rich in synonyms.

6. Awesome. This word is greatly overused. It actually means something that fills you with awe, not just something that’s pretty good.

7. Nice. This is something I was taught at school, many centuries ago. OK, maybe not quite that long, but a long time ago anyway. Don’t use ‘nice’. Choose a stronger, more interesting word.

8. Really. Similar to ‘Very’. ‘A really nice cake’ (Look, I used 2 of these words in 1 sentence!) Choose a stronger word.

9. Irregardless. This is NOT a word. The word is ‘regardless’.

10. Try and...  actually means you will try, and you will succeed. If you succeed, you don’t need to try. If you try, you will nor necessarily succeed. Use ‘Try to…’ instead.

What do you think about using these words? Do you use them?

Tuesday, 7 May 2019

Carthinal's Story


I've posted something about the people in by Wolves of Vimar series. I have now started writing about Carthinal. At the beginning of The Wolf Pack, Book 1 in The Wolves of Vimar series, he is an apprentice mage. During that book, he becomes a full mage, having taken his tests that ended his apprenticeship.

He is a good-looking half-elf, with auburn hair and incredibly deep blue eyes, almost indigo. He is ambitious in magic, and with his good looks, females of all ages tend to pursue him. He does not discourage them.

In this, part 1, of his story, he is sixteen, but, being a half-elf, his development, both physical and mental, are more that of a boy of twelve.

So let's begin his story.

Carthinal dragged his feet as he entered the house accompanied by his nanny, Blendin.
He had just returned from his grandfather’s funeral. The old man had passed away suddenly the previous week. Before that, he had seemed full of life. Carthinal could not understand what had happened. His grandfather was the only relative he had in Bluehaven, his parents and his grandmother having died.

His father had been an elf, and so, although sixteen and nominally now of age, Carthinal’s development was slower than true humans and he appeared in both physical and mental development to be a young boy of eleven years old.

The house felt empty, devoid of life. Carthinal went into the garden at the back of the house. He sat on his swing and swung idly back and forwards. What would happen to him now? Would they send him to his father’s people in Rindisillaron? It was a long way away, and he had no recollection of his paternal grandparents, although they had been in Bluehaven when he had been born.

He looked at the house. He heard the laughter of his grandmother, and his grandfather’s deep voice. He even thought he heard his mother calling to him, although both his parents had been dead for the past eight years. He jumped off the swing and picked up a stick.

Slashing at the plants in the garden gave him a little satisfaction. “Why did they all die and leave me?”

Blendin came out and found him still destroying the garden. “Come, master Carthinal. This won’t help. You need to come in and have something to eat.”

“Shan’t! I’m not hungry” He slashed at a tulip.

“What have those poor flowers done to you? You know you’ll be sorry once you’ve calmed down a bit.”

“I don’t want to go back into the house. There’s no one there. It ‘s dead. Just like Mother and Father, Grandmother and Grandfather.”

Blendin sat down on a bench and pulled the boy towards her, holding him tight. “This is now your house, Carthinal. Your grandfather left it to you in his will. You are a rich young man. If you no longer want to live here, you can sell it, I suppose, and buy somewhere else.”

Looking into the boy’s indigo eyes, Blendin saw the deep hurt he felt. She brushed his auburn hair from his face and gently led him back to the house.

The servants worked as usual. Carthinal’s grandfather had arranged that money should be sent to Promin, the butler, who then paid the other servants. Carthinal had his meals in the nursery with Blendin, although Premin had said that as the master of the house he should eat in the dining room. Carthinal could not bring himself to eat alone in that large room.

The days passed. Gromblo Grimnor, the lawyer who dealt with his grandfather’s affairs, appeared frequently at the house.

Carthinal found him snooping around in his grandfather’s study one day.

“What are you doing?” the boy asked him, frowning. “Why are you here? You’ve been coming a lot recently.”

Gromblo Grimnor smiled. With his mouth, anyway. He looked Carthinal up and down. “There are a lot of loose ends to tidy up, child. I need to come here to find things out.”

Although sixteen, Carthinal had always been treated as a child, and so he turned and left the lawyer to do what he needed to do. The law did not know what to do about a boy whose chronological age said he was an adult, but whose development said he was a child.

Eventually, he went out every day to walk around the town. Sometimes he stayed out all day. He hated being in the house. He felt so alone. He considered going back to the school his grandfather had sent him, but they, like everyone else, did not want a sixteen-year-old who looked and behaved like and eleven-year-old. His grandfather’s money had kept him there, but now, they didn’t want him.

Visits by Gromblo Grimnor increased. Carthinal asked Promin why the lawyer was there so often. The butler shrugged and shook his head.

Blendin had no idea either. “I don’t know the workings of the law,” she told him. “Perhaps it’s because your grandfather died so suddenly, or perhaps because he was so well off. Or it might even be because of you. You are an adult in Grosmer law, but still a child, really. That’s a bit confusing for the lawyers.”

What was Gromblo doing? Will Carthinal find out? Come back on the first Tuesday of June to find out.

Leave a comment to say whether you liked this story or not, and what you did or did not enjoy. It is helpful to me.