“What the?” I stared at the eagle-sized wasp that had somehow made its way onto my right thigh – which was wrong on all levels – not my thigh. The wasp being there.
I was sitting outside the reception of the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary surfing the web when I noticed the purple-redish insect climbing to the top of a pole that, upon closer inspection (but not too close. After all, there was an eagle-sized wasp on it), I noticed happened to be a spear on display.
I figured if it was climbing rather than flying it must have reached the end of its life cycle as it had fallen several times to the ground only to resume its climbing. Keeping it in my peripheral, I continued to surf the web while pushing the pet warthog, Farki (which means, ‘pig’ in Afrikaans) away from my bag which she kept mistaking to be some sort of food supplement (she was hand-raised and never got the hint when released into the wild).
When the wasp was on the ground again it was making a beeline (see what I did there?) towards my feet.
Wasps are omnivorous, was my immediate thought. And why shouldn’t it indulge itself for its last supper on a hearty, meaty nomadic thigh? I know I would if I were in its place. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately), I wasn’t in its place. Unlike bees, wasps sting rapidly multiple times. And won’t lose their stingers like their smaller, kamikaze honey-making cousins.
I lifted my feet from the ground and continued to work when, a few moments later I found myself staring at the yellow face – which looked like the Transformers logo – from its locale on my right thigh. I slowly set down my laptop , never taking my eyes off the alien-looking creature as it began to explore the outskirts of my shorts.
I quickly wrapped them tight so as to not allow it to enter the safe where the family jewels are kept (I only have one pair of underwear which I use for special occasions. This wasn’t a special occasion).
The movement caused the wasp to raise its abdomen high, like a contortionist from Cirque du Soleil, the stinger glinting in the equatorial sun, a UV ray reflecting off it.
“No, no, no, no,” I repeated repeatedly. “Please no,” I continued to beg. I wondered if I could just grab it by its abdomen but then I didn’t know if wasps also carry a mean bite since they eat meat.
I figured that since it was possibly dying and low on energy then I could flick it off me, perhaps towards Farki who might mistake it for food and leave my bag alone. It’s not that I wanted the thing dead. I hate killing anything living (except mosquitoes. Genocide the lot of ‘em). Even accidentally stepping on ants bums me out but it must be nearing its end if it didn’t have the energy to fly, right?
Or maybe it just didn’t have enough meat in its diet.
It didn’t have the energy needed to take to the air but it sure had some fight in it to hold onto my pants when I tried to flick it away. And, in slow motion mind you, as it began to raise its abdomen, it brought it down straight into my thigh.
Now, I may or may not have yelped and ejected myself from my seated position, scaring Farki off (that’ll teach her to munch on my bag) but I can neither confirm nor deny this accusation (my lawyer says, “No comment.”). But I did manage to flick it off before it got another sting in and watched it climb the wall – way on the other side from where I was sitting.
I then limped towards Angie, director of the sanctuary, and asked her, “Have you got anything for wasp stings?”
“Onion,” she said. “Take half an onion and rub it on the stung area. It’ll absorb the venom.”
I’d never heard of this method. I’d never been stung by a wasp before either. Of course, as my thigh began to swell I was game for any remedy – besides amputation. A moment later, half an onion was produced and I rubbed it on the stung area, already turning as red as the Ugandan soil.
Incredibly, the stinging and burning sensation vanished almost immediately. I continued to apply the onion for the next half hour, went and tracked some rhinos with a ranger and by dinner time (the onion was not involved in dinner) I had forgotten about the yelping incident of being stung by an African wasp.
Except in the morning when the redness was still there and the itchiness of it began.
But still, onions! Who knew?
*Despite the fear they sometimes evoke, wasps are extremely beneficial to humans. Nearly every pest insect on Earth is preyed upon by a wasp species, either for food or as a host for its parasitic larvae. Wasps are so adept at controlling pest populations that the agriculture industry now regularly deploys them to protect crops (National Geographic).