Rich Burkmar

An economically curious ecologist

What wasps are for

It stung me, the first time I heard it:
What are wasps for?
Because piercing the mock humour
was an earnest question,
setting us worlds apart.

They are not for fear.

They are for beauty – look closely.
Around dazzling tyger stripes, yellow and black,
smoulder embers brown and red
and the crisp symmetry of the face
frames eyes faceted like diamonds.

They are not for ignorance.

They are for myriad relationships
with commensals, predators and prey.
And for bringing us down a peg or two;
puncturing hubris that frames ecosystems as
mere service providers for humankind.

They are not for destroying the planet.

They are for master craftsmanship.
I’ve listened to the tiny sound of a wasp at work,
adzing the wooden bench next to me –
a sound as precious as birdsong.
Then away to build its paper palace.

They are not for killing.

They are for live and let live.
Let the wasp concern itself with what it’s for.
What are people for?
is not a question asked
ever by a wasp.