By Karen Cohen
A call comes into a local police department somewhere…where it is, however, is not important, it could be anywhere, even in our town. The woman caller is distraught and angry. She wants to report that her property has been vandalized and theft is involved. The police send out a car with two officers. They arrive to find this woman standing in her driveway. One officer, notepad in hand, says, “Ok, ma’am. We got a report that your home has been vandalized. Can you tell us what happened?” Nearly fainting from hyperventilating, she says, “My tulips! My tulips that I planted when we moved here last year have been stolen.” The officer repeats and writes, “Your tulips have been stolen.” She exclaims, “Yes!” “How many tulips have been stolen?” This time she yells so all the neighbors can hear, “Every single one of them have been stolen, over 50 or more!”
The trio walks to the side yard that lines the long driveway, the officer says, “Can you show us where this occurred?” She runs over to a spot that has plenty of greenery but no flowers, “Right here,” she shouts, “all along this path! Do you see, there are no tulips?” Breathing a subtle sigh, the officer prods further, “When did you notice that your tulips were gone?” “Well,” she takes a deep breath, “Last night I watered this whole flower bed. This morning, I came out and found every last one of my tulips’ flowers are completely gone, snapped off of every stem. Gone! I want to find out who did this horrible act!”
The officers shuffle a bit as they glance at one another for a minute trying to decide which one of them will break the news to this “victim.” “Well ma’am, it is our experienced guess, just a good hunch, that because your yard backs up to a golf course, that the perpetrator that did the deed, probably more than one. It was… deer.” The woman lifts up her sunglasses to look the officers directly eye to eye, “How could deer remove every single tulip bloom with no sign of anything else disturbed?!” “Ma’am, you will learn that deer love tulips, hostas, daylilies, roses, and more. They eat flowers,” explains one officer and the other one replies, trying not to chuckle, “Deer live right in those woods that surround the golf course. Can’t stop them.”
They fold up their notepads and start back to their patrol car. Slightly embarrassed, she concluded to herself that she cannot report theft by deer, nor can she file a claim against the raccoon posse that turned her garbage can into a buffet of leftover bones mixed in with plastic bags two weeks ago on trash collection day. “Sorry to bother you, officers. I will never plant tulips again,” she utters as if they might care. “Yup, or roses, or daylilies, or hostas. Check out a list on what deer love to eat and you’ll find a whole lot more! Have a good day!” They drive off.
This real story, (it was my sister’s tulips), came back to my memory yesterday when I opened my kitchen curtains in the morning to find a similar situation. Similar in that I believe the perpetrator was not human. Out my window, I noticed a swarm of angry bald-faced hornets outside around our mudroom roofline. Then I saw their huge papery nest hanging by a few threads to the roof. It had been torn apart and they were pretty upset. Since I have been stung repeatedly by these $@%^(^ wasps years ago, I knew very well to not go outside and approach them or their damaged nest. My husband and I searched the internet for a safe way to get rid of these highly dangerous flying insects. Hosing them with water was not a good idea, that makes them even madder. We determined that we would have to wait until dark and spray them with hornet insecticide. Normally we don’t kill many insects, but these flying assassinators were hurriedly trying to rebuild their nest and this was not mutually agreed upon with the homeowners – us!
The next blow came when we noticed that nearby, our trash containers had been turned over. Shreds of the plastic bags along with litter lined a straight trail into the woods. Since we compost all our veggie scraps, edibles like chicken bones, packaging from frozen salmon, and non-recyclable plastic were the now emptied contents of our trash. All of the stinky stuff was spread out on the back lawn. The plot was unraveling slowly.
Closer examination revealed that the dangling hornet’s nest was attached on the back side to the large 4’ x 7’ glass window on the north side of our mudroom, and tucked under the eave so it was safe from rain. It was only then that we detected, to our shared horror, that the glass had a long fracture starting at the hornet’s nest running vertically to the bottom of the window pane. It didn’t take a detective to conclude: a bear, could be any bear, had decided after rummaging through our trash that there was a hornet nest within its reach. And reach for it, he did! And with that motion, he knocked into the glass. My husband exclaimed in initial doubt, “How could a bear reach that nest at the first floor roofline?!” I illustrated with my hands held up high over my head, “A bear standing as tall as you could do that.”
With racing thoughts and heartbeats, we quickly consulted the internet a second time and typed: “Do bears eat hornets?” It was a common fact that bears love honey, but what the heck did stinging hornets have to offer a hungry bear? Ahh, the facts, just the facts, ma’am. Bears eat hornet larvae. Our eyes widened as we pondered that.
We, like so many homeowners across America, have been sharing our space with all kinds of hidden critters, some tame and harmless, some ornery, some crepuscular, some little and others large, whether we like it or not. Could we be the invaders or are they? Depends on who’s doing the asking! What’s the solution? Stay safe, run when necessary from danger, research and ask friends, and vent (not to the authorities) when you have to, continue to explore, and learn more about nature. Really, it is best to accept that this life is one big ride guaranteed to have some bumps, bears, bees and other assorted potholes in the road.
(Karen Cohen writes from her garden journals. Send your garden stories, comments and tips to email@example.com. And Happy Gardening!)