I've been stung twice by hornets recently. A longstanding hive of wild bees on our property also has disappeared. Naturally I'm blaming George Bush. He's responsible for so many disasters, might as well pin these on him too.
But seriously … this youa culpa isn't all that far-fetched. The climate, in Oregon and elsewhere, is changing due to global warming. That's having effects on plants and the insects that pollinate them.
In Europe global warming is being blamed for the spread of the Asian Hornet into France and potentially Great Britain. These are giant hornets renowned for their vicious stings.
I don't know what kind of hornet stung me. Both times it was on the top of my head while I was walking around our neighborhood lake. I'd been watching out for yellow jacket nests in the ground. They usually appear this time of year.
Laurel and I are expert at spotting and killing yellow jackets. Hornet nests, though, were uncharted territory. In the seventeen years we've lived in rural south Salem, I don't think we've ever been stung by a hornet. This summer, thrice (Laurel got stung once). Something has changed.
A neighbor with a bee suit took care of the first nest, which was hanging from an oak tree branch. We handled the second ourselves. It was in a fir tree close to the trail I was on when attacked.
Laurel bravely sprayed it, aiming at the nest's opening, while I not-so-bravely stood farther away, providing flashlight assistance (it's advisable to kill yellow jackets and hornets at night, when it's cooler and they're not very active).
Is it a coincidence that the wild bee hive disappeared just as the hornets thrived? Maybe. But it's also possible that climate change is messing with the balance of insect nature in ways that aren't well understood yet.
Last night I read a fascinating article in The New Yorker by Elizabeth Kolbert, "Stung. Where have all the bees gone?" She describes the worrying phenomenon of colony collapse disorder (C.C. D.), a serious but poorly understood problem in both Oregon and the rest of the world. (See "Bees Vanish and Scientists Race for Reasons")
Kolbert mentions a 2006 report titled The Status of Pollinators in North America.
Among the many possible contributing factors that the report cited are habitat loss, pesticide use, climate change, and introduced pathogens. May Berenbaum, a professor of entomology at the University of Illinois, chaired the National Research Council panel.; she recently characterized C.C.D. as "a crisis on top of a crisis."
"We can't count on wild pollinators because we've so altered the landscape that many are no longer viable," she said.
Well, I can testify that wild hornets still are viable. And that buying stock in whoever makes Benadryl could be a savvy investment ploy, because if hornets are increasing because of global warming lots more people are going to be chugging this antihistamine after getting stung, just like I did.
In my heart of hearts I know that blaming George Bush for my stings is a bit irrational. Yes, he's irritatingly clueless about the reality of global warming, just as he is about many other things. However, the decline of bees and the rise of hornets in our neighborhood surely is the result of numerous causes, climate change being only one possibility.
At the same time, there was something fitting about the way I slapped my head when I felt the hornets sting me. It's what I feel like doing much of the time when I hear about clueless George denying some evident scientific, political, or military fact.
So until the American voters get rid of his hornet's nest of incompetency by electing our next president in November 2008, I think I'll keep on viewing my stings as George Bush's fault.
My lip swelled up after the first attack. It felt and looked strange. The next day it was back to normal. That's the way I'm looking forward to feeling when a new Democratic president takes the oath of office.
Normal again, after eight years of getting stung by neoconservative blunders.