Sheds, Paint and Wasps.

On Tuesday morning I decided it was time to paint the back garden shed. It is actually a monster of a building. The previous house owner worked on building sites and this is almost certainly a garage-sized site store, complete with double front doors and two sets of frosted windows with opening lights.

It had needed some timbers replacing and this job is meant to make any further renovation un-necessary for the foreseeable future (I can at least hope). But, of course, it should be all the same colour and so needs overall painting doing before autumn brings damp which will further destroy the flaking paint and make painting more difficult (because I can come up with brilliant excuses to put things off).

So I root around inside the shed, dig out the electric sanding machine, the Swiss army pen-knife ladder of many positions, my faithful Black and Decker Workmate with the wonky leg, an extension cable, paint brushes and, luckily, find some sandpaper patches that’ll fit onto the sander. Oh and the three tins of paint we bought in anticipation.

And I am away, scrambling around on the ladder, leaning this way and that; too far away, too close … but getting it done like a poor version of the Crimson Pirate. Having an electric sander makes the job faster, but the vibrations run up my arm and have my head going even after I turn the machine off.

I plan to split it into sections: a day for each of the sides, and time each day to add a second coat which will definitely be needed as we are putting a paler colour (herb garden) on top of a deeper, gloss green. The idea, apart from the fact that The Plantation Owner’s Wife liked the colour that it’ll bring light into the “fire-pit glade” which is now shaded by next door’s laburnum, a Korean pine and the now-massive small-leaved lime tree that we bought as a sapling from the Alternative Technology Centre at Maccyntleth many years ago.

The painting goes more smoothly than I had thought and, adding in some trim repairs to the doors, I am finished in time to get changed and go to the Walsall game (another story altogether). But before I go I have time to sit and drink a cup of tea at the table on the lawn. As I am sitting there I notice a procession of wasps visiting the table. Not to attack me or my slab of chocolate cake (made to use up the surplus courgettes) but to chew away at the table top. This is a table and chairs et we bought at a garden centre we visited looking for French bean seeds. About six years ago: silvery metal frame and pale coloured wooden surface planks. Elegant. But the weather has taken away the varnish, exposing the wood and wasps are industriously taking it away to build, extend or repair a nest somewhere. For once I have no idea where the nearest wasp nest is. We’ve had them in our roof space, in a nest box outside the front room window, in a hole in the rockery and once upon a time a persistent queen tried to build a nest hanging from our (timber) bathroom ceiling.

Image result for wasps on wood

I have great respect for wasps. I am intrigued by the functionality of their social altruism and single minded determination. They are organic machines, finely tuned and adapted for purpose … and stunningly beautiful too. Treated with respect they are not usually a threat – until order dies in the colony, as inevitably it must – and I am witnessing amazing behaviour from super-predators. Their slim waisted bodies twitch incessantly as they chow down into the wood with strong mandibles the evening sun reflecting off their hard body shells.

Image result for wasps on wood

During the fifteen minutes or so that I watch, fascinated, the in-out flights continue. I wonder at what stage wasp nests actually stop expanding.

And are all of these visitors from the same nest? Are wasps territorial? Will wasps from different colonies work side by side?

At one stage there are four wasps eating away at the table top, taking small layers off each time.

How long will it be before I am thinking of rubbing the table down and … oh dammit, it just happened, didn’t it?


One response to this post.

  1. Wasps are very fascinating. I have a link to a free ebook on an old post of mine here: It is a very old book (very much of its time) but the information on wasps is enthralling.


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