Why did God make pests? Perhaps it's a sign of divine humor
Mychal Wilmes discusses various types of on-farm pests and their possible purpose, along with the good things going on in life.
After the sun had burned off the morning dew, hundreds of slow-flying insects emerged from the lawn. They looked wasps but didn’t act like them.
“They are cicadas," a neighbor said.
“They are dirt wasps," another said.
Cicadas would have made enough noise to awaken the dead, so it was obvious they were dirt wasps, also called cicada killer wasps because they feast on the less threatening bugs.
I ran for cover when four wasps buzzed over me, but the wasps aren’t aggressive unless you pester them, their nests, and tunnels. Cicada killers thrive in dry, sandy soil. They leave small dirt piles in the lawn and build tunnels that can be 30 feet to 40 feet long. Glandular pesticides can kill them, and a cheaper weapon is to flood the tunnels and nests (if you can find them) with water.
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Grandson Elliot couldn’t resist poking at them with a stick, which is why he was ushered back into the house. Trapped inside, he was angry because his day had already been ruined.
“Why did God make wasps?" he asked.
Adam and Eve’s banishment from the Garden of Eden was mentioned, along with the idea that God has a wonderful sense of humor. Elliot didn’t think anything about God was funny, but it is so.
Why else did he create skunks, kangaroos, turtles, and the like?
Staying with a Biblical theme, I asked aloud what plague might be next — grasshoppers, frogs, boils, or gnats. Gnats, in my opinion, are the worst of the worst. The opinion stems from the early 1970s, when the pests started showing up in mass during the first hay cutting of the year. They hadn’t been a problem before, but suddenly cutting and raking hay was made miserable by gnats in the ears, nose, and hair.
Home treatments did not work, and tractor drivers became desperate enough that they volunteered to clean calf pens instead of sitting on a tractor’s seat. Dad cautioned patience, insisting that the gnat hoard would be gone by July. They did indeed disappear only to return the following year.
Kathy, a positive thinker who did not care for my reference to Old Testament history, said that rather than whining about the wasps, I should think about all the positives.
There are many of those. The crops on my brother’s farm look great and Dad would be proud; the sweet corn harvest has started; the oats field is turning; and our health is good. The town’s annual celebration, “Survival Days" was fun, the small county fair begins in August followed by the threshing show.
However, it’s hard to remain positive when hundreds of wasps are outside your garage door. Some people are highly allergic to stings and must protect themselves. I’ve been bitten in the face and hands.
That knowledge has little impact on Elliot, who is caught with stick in hand with designs to swat the cicada killers. It would be terrible if he returned to his parents with a welt the size of a cherry tomato.
The car takes us away from the wasps and attention shifts to the fluffy clouds that move slow across the sky. Years ago, sitting in the shade of a big cottonwood in the pasture, I imagined the clouds taking on animal shapes.
Elliot still had wasps on his mind, so to divert his attention I told him that his grandparents and other ancestors were asleep on the pillow-like clouds and enjoying yet another perfect day.
“Do you know anybody who is going to hell?" he asked.
We are not in any position to judge that, though in the heat of the moment I thought some people were headed in that direction.
“Let’s think about better things," I said.
“You mean be positive," Elliot said.
Wasps are always among us and it’s best to avoid their sting.
Mychal Wilmes is the retired managing editor of Agri News. He lives in West Concord, Minnesota, with his wife, Kathy.