Waspy questions

Manjula Padmanabhan | Updated on May 08, 2020 Published on May 08, 2020

Manjula Padmanabhan

“Did you know—” I begin, while talking to Bins on WhatsApp. He stops me at once. “You KNOW I hate quizzes!” he groans. “Shush,” I say to him. “It’s NOT a quiz. I just wondered if you knew that some creatures eat wasps?”

He says, “Huh? Of course. Why not?” I always forget that Bins is surprise-proof. Darn. “Oh, come on!” I exclaim, “surely it’s obvious!? If you eat a wasp, you’ll get stung inside your mouth. So the next time you see a wasp, you skip the meal.” “I never said I would eat a wasp,” says Bins, “and if I did, it would not be alive. After all, even though I am French, I do not eat live oysters. Same with the wasps. I do not eat them alive or dead! In fact I have never even eaten ants—“ “STOP!” I scream, from my side of the planet. “This was not meant to be a survey of which insects you do or don’t eat!”

“No need to scream. You’re the one with the stupid questions!” he says, sounding offended. “Now come on, what’s the next one?” I click my tongue. “It’s not a quiz, it’s this book I’m reading!” I say called Does Anything Eat Wasps. “It’s a compilation of items from the New Scientist’s “Last Word” column. The questions are quite hilarious and so are some of the answers. For instance, how about this?” I read from the book, “How many different species live on or in the human body[...]?” Answer: About 200. “Never!” snorts Bins from his side of the planet. “Next?”

“Okay, here’s someone who wants to know what would happen if some nasty alien were to steal away the Moon...” I say. Before I can finish, Bins says, “Chaos on Earth. These are silly questions by the way. Next?” I sigh deeply. “All right then. How about compasses: Do they work on board a spacecraft, considering that they need the Earth’s magnetic fields?” “Not interested in space,” says Bins, dismissively, “but probably not.” It’s complicated, I tell him. “The Earth’s magnetic field will cease to affect the compass after around 40,000 miles from the surface but then the Sun’s magnetic field will exert an influence...”

“Next?” asks Bins. I am, of course, starting to feel annoyed that he’s refusing to find my little book interesting. “Hey!” I say, “we didn’t get to the bottom of the wasp question. The answer is: A number of other insects eat wasps, plus birds, mammals and humans too, if you include the wasp’s larvae —”

“Larvae is cheating,” says Bins. “They do not have stings. Eating a larva is the same as eating a tiny sausage.” “YUCK!” I shriek. “Again with the screaming?” complains Bins. “Please have some concern for my poor, defenceless eardrums!” “I suppose you don’t want to know about earwax?” I respond. “What makes it darker or lighter?” “I don’t know,” says Bins. “Too bad!” I sing out, as I hang up, “I WONT TELL YOU!”

Manjula Padmanabhan, author and artist, writes of her life in the fictional town of Elsewhere, US, in this weekly column

Published on May 08, 2020

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