We have quite a few wild apple trees on our property. None of them are really very old, but for the past few years they've been producing small, often very tart fruit that the deer and squirrels enjoy during the winter.
I've begun to trim the ones closest to the house so that they will look and behave a little more like domesticated trees than wild ones. My thinking has been that if I cap the growth of their upper branches, suckers and so on, they'll concentrate more on fruit production.
This particular tree, photographed above, has had its first summer of absolutely phenomenal production. Its boughs are loaded with bright, colourful fruit for the very first time.
Unfortunately, paper wasps chose this year to build their nest right in the middle of all that good food. In past years I've treated paper wasps as feared enemies and wiped out their nests whenever I found them. Every year, it seems, they build right around the house. We're not allergic to bee venom, thank goodness, but no one likes being stung by these nasty pests.
When I spotted this nest, my first thought was to destroy it, as I have with all the others. Then I began thinking about the changes I've noticed over the past several summers on my property. The monarch butterflies used to return to our back yard in droves to breed, but this summer the milkweed I allow to grow for their use is untouched by monarch larvae. I haven't seen a single one, caterpillar or adult. As well, I've only seen a few bumblebees and honey bees around this summer. Our ecosystem is in serious trouble, and it worries me.
So the paper wasps stayed. We learned to walk around that particular tree, rather than right past it as we usually do when we take the dogs out back. Recently I snuck out after dark, when the bees were sleeping, to try a few of the apples. Oh my, they're delicious. A sleepy warrior stuck his head outside the hole to see what was disturbing the branches around its nest. I backed away, apple in hand, willing to leave him the field of battle until another day.
I find myself now on the horns of a thorny dilemma. I'd like very much to pick all the apples on that tree before they're too soft to use, but the wasps.......