An Excerpt from Jim Conrad's
NATURALIST NEWSLETTER
of December 11, 2011
Issued from Hacienda Chichen Resort adoining Chichén Itzá ruin
in YUCATÁN, MÉXICO

WASP SLAUGHTER

You can imagine that, having watched the wasps so long building and caring for their nest, I had grown interested in their welfare. Seeing ants destroy their nest was poignant for me. However, experiences like that never leave me with just one feeling, or insight.

My first thought had been that this wasp slaughter was exactly the kind of thing that happens all the time in Nature, at all levels. And since humans are as much a product of, and profoundly enmeshed in Nature, as any fern or fly, both wasps and people have nothing watching over us making sure bad things don't happen. We're given a nudge at birth, then we're on our own.

The second thought was that once again we had one of those Yin-Yang situations, where everything has both "good" and "bad" sides and at the heart of every "good" there's always a seed of "bad," and vice versa. For, maybe the overall local wasp community actually benefits from such occasional attacks "thinning them out." Otherwise, ever expanding wasp numbers might deplete the wasps' local prey, until famine and/or disease did much more damage on the wasps than any ant raid. And, it's true that several other wasp nests likewise hung in the hut's thatch, more than normal for a typical Maya hut.

The third thought was that of all Earthly creations, there's only one instance in which a living thing can escape the need for Nature's harsh methods of keeping things in balance. That single instance lies with us humans, who can overcome impulses arising from genetic programming that may have served our distant ancestors on the African savannah well, but which now are inappropriate, even deadly. For example, wasps can only keep breeding unthinkingly until they're so overpopulated that something has to reduce their numbers for them. But we humans can consciously control our numbers, if we think, feel and act.

The fourth thought arising from the ant attack was that at this moment in the evolution of human development, surely the most dignified goal a person can have is this: To identify, reflect on, and take action with regard to his or her own vestigial, self-destructive, genetically programmed impulses.

How beautiful that Nature teaches in such easy-to-comprehend, generous ways, if we only pause, look, wonder, and think.