Deeply conflicted. That’s how I feel about calling the exterminator. The longer I’m alive the more eastern my thinking becomes. What right do I have to kill other animals for doing just what they’ve evolved to do? The yellow jackets who made a nest in our siding were doing just what nature directed them to do. In what sense is our house natural? When they started getting inside, though, memories of having been traumatized by stepping on a yellow jacket nest when I was younger came to too sharp a focus. Terror is probably the right word. We were catching and releasing five or six a day and summer doesn’t look to be about to give way to autumn very soon. There’s nothing like being startled by an angry bee when you walk into a room in summer-weight clothes. So the exterminator came.
As the yellow jackets fled into the house to escape the poison I pondered what right I had to deprive them of their lives (here’s the eastern thinking part). How was my comfort, or my lack of terror, more important than their need for a home? Couldn’t we peacefully coexist? You see, I’m no fan of violence of any sort. In my ideal world there would be no war and no meanness. You might not be able to call yellow jackets cuddly, but they don’t seem the happiest of creatures with whom to interact. They’re industrious, like business owners want their drones to be, but their people skills aren’t too good. Maybe it’s just projecting, but when they swarm the only word that comes to mind is anger. Even their evolved body armor reflects that. Still, I didn’t want them killed. I just wanted them not to misunderstand our human interactions while shut in during a pandemic.
Life is a gift to all creatures. I became a vegan years ago because of humanitarian concern for our fellow creatures. The mess our world’s in now because of our lack of care for anything but money plainly shows. Bees, it could be argued, make more of a contribution to the well-being of the planet than I do. Who am I to make any claim of superiority? Still, I’m responsible to pay half my salary on a mortgage that will keep me in one location until the situation betters. When I see that silhouette in the window a sting of terror from my childhood comes back as I grab an empty peanutbutter jar to catch and release, only to have another bee replace the first. Childhood traumas are like that, of course. But now I apologize for bringing on the death of fellow creatures and I walk through the rooms through which they had freely flown.