The past couple weeks, I’ve been doing a lot of gardening, including breaking up the soil from one flower bed and removing all the weeds, beetle larvae, and other undesirable matter. I fill up my wheelbarrow and sit at the bottom of the deck stairs to do this. Last Sunday afternoon, my neighbor looked over and said, “Are you still there doing that!?” (she hates gardening). It’s a job I love doing, though, since it allows me to dig through the soil with my hands without having to get down on my knees (which I am not able to do anymore)…you avid gardeners need no further explanation!
When I finished this particular job last Sunday, I began gathering up my tools and I tossed my trowel up toward the top of the deck. As I did, I noticed some hornets swarming around an old bird house that was attached to a pole which I had propped up in the corner of the deck/stairs. On closer investigation, I realized they were building a nest inside the bird house, only about four feet from where I had been working for several days oblivious to the activity above my head! After a quick prayer thanking the Lord I hadn’t accidently knocked the pole over as I ducked under the deck a few times to turn on the water hose, I decided we had to take care of the nest soon – when my husband returned home from a business trip; I wasn’t about to do that job alone as I have a real fear of hornets and their cousins.
So, on Monday night after it got dark, my husband suited up in a netted “jacket” and armed himself with a can of Hornet Blaster (if you’ve never used the stuff, it’s amazing but stinks worse than a skunk!! Hint: close all windows first and wear something old that you can immediately throw in the washer afterward. Wait until after dark as the hornets will have returned to the nest and don’t fly at night.) A few sprays inside the little hole on the bird house and hubby made a bee-line (no pun intended) for the door.
The next day, I noticed no hornet activity, so from a distance threw a stick at the bird house…still nothing. Then I gingerly took the stick and knocked the bird house and pole over…still no activity. Now remember, I said I am very scared of hornets, but I was curious. Verrrry slowly, I pried open the side panel and when all was still quiet I peeked inside. What I saw was more interesting than any other hornet’s nest we’ve ever gotten rid of before. The nest had been torn apart a bit (probably from me knocking it over), and the nesting comb had come loose as you can see in the picture. I had never seen one quite this developed, nor had I ever seen one with larvae and developing pupas in it. The 18 hornets I counted were quite dead, including the queen, but the larvae were still wiggling (sorry for any of you who are squeamish). Some of the cells had a silky cover over them which I learned later is what the larvae do when they begin to transform into an adult.[i] There were a couple hornets which had eaten through the silk and were about to emerge.
Later, when my husband and neighbor were examining the comb, we all marveled at the intricacy and precise engineering feat it presented. I had learned that it is a fertilized queen that completes the initial construction of the nest until enough adult hornets develop to carry on her work of enlarging the nest, taking care of the larvae, and bringing food to her. She simply lays the eggs at that point. (I guess that’s where we get the idiom, the “queen bee”)
What amazed me further is that in the fall, only fertilized female hornets survive the winter to continue this cycle in the spring. She relies solely on instinct as, unlike many other animal species, she does not learn these skills from her mother or from imprinting. God has built into the hornet a complex genetic code that governs her behavior apart from any prior experience or learning opportunity.[ii] This always blows my mind!
Although the only reference to hornets in the Bible are when God sent them ahead of the Israelites before His people went in to conquer their enemies, there is mention of other animals which use their God-given instincts.
Proverbs 30:25-27 says, “Ants; they are weak, but they store up their food in the summer. Rock badgers: they are not strong either, but they make their homes among the rocks. Locusts, they have no king, but they move in formation.” Jeremiah 8:7 says, “Even storks know when it is time to return; doves, swallows, and thrushes know when it is time to migrate.”
I may have stirred up a hornet’s nest, but my heart was more stirred to praise and worship God for His infinite wisdom in designing all creatures with such complexity!
Until next Sunday,