Wopsie the Water-Carrier

First published in 1949 in The Third Chalet Book for Girls, pages 139-141.

Wopsie the Water-Carrier Title Image (Page 139)

One summer we had a wasps' nest in the rockery at the bottom of the garden. We were rather worried, for we also had an inquisitive black kitten a young Alsatian dog; but for some reason or other The Bogey and Bryn left that corner severely alone.

Our gardener had left and we had not got another, so, though we did get poison to put an end to the wasps, no one knew how to use it, and in the end the poison was put on the bonfire, and the wasps remained.

One morning, when I was busy in the back kitchen, I went to the sink for some water, and on the cold-water tap, which dripped if it were not properly turned off, was a wasp, drinking as hard as it could. I stood and watched it for a minute or two. The tip of its abdomen or lower part waggled backwards and forwards, and it seemed to be drinking with all its might and main.

Quite suddenly it rose and flew out of my window, which was wide open. I got my water, and went back to my work.

Half an hour later, going back to the tap, I saw my wasp at it again, rather to my surprise. And when I went to wash up after lunch there was the wasp, drinking once more.

During the afternoon I made two or three trips to the back kitchen to see what was happened, and on almost every occasion my friend was clinging to the rim of the tap, sucking at the drips, and then flying away across the garden to the rockery.

In the evening a friend called who knows a good deal about insects, and I told her what I had seen. She laughed when she heard, and said, "Oh, that's a water-carrier. You must have a wasps' nest somewhere near. At this time of year the queen is very busy laying eggs, and cannot leave the nest, so one or more wasps have the duty of bringing water to her, and they are the water-carriers. Evidently once has taken a fancy to your tap."

Next morning, when I went downstairs, there was the wasp on the window-sill, and as soon as I opened the window it flew straight to the tap and began drinking.

We took a deep interes tin it after this, and during the whole of that hot summer Wospie, as we named it, became a friend of the family. It seemed to know that we would not harm it; and when, the tap having been mended, there were no longer any drips for it, it would buzz to us when we were in the back kitchen till we had turned the tap on slightly so that it could collect its water.

One afternoon, when I was working in the library, I heard a continual hum around my head. I looked up, and there was a wasp, circling round and round me, and buzzing loudly.

"Hello, Wopsie," I said. "Is the tap turned off? Very well; I'll come and turn it on for you."

I went downstairs, Wopsie flying round me all the time and buzzing, and as soon as I had turned on the tap it flew to the rim and began on its task.

After that, if there was no water available, Wopsie used to fly through the house till it found some member of the family. It would circle round and round until that person went to turn on the tap. Then it would go to the rim and begin taking in its water.

It was a very hot summer that year, and the windows downstairs were open all day, and the bedroom windows all day and night. Wopsie found out which was my bedroom, and used to come and disturb me very early in the morning if I had forgotten to put out the dish of water we had begun to place for it. All the summer it came, and we grew quite friendly. Sometimes it would come and sit on my hand or arm, buzzing a deep, contented sort of hum. Never once did it sting me.

Summer passed and autumn came, and with the autumn, late in September, came the first of the frosts. The masons also arrived, and cemented up the openings to th nest. Meanwhile Wopsie had been out on its errands, and somehow escaped being sealed up with the others. It flew round and round the cemented holes, but could find no way in, so it came back and seemed prepared to settle down with us for the winter.

There was no queen towater now, so it did not require so many or such long drinks. We gota wooden box, kept it filled with earth, and set tiny daps of jam or a few grains of sugar on an old saucer near by, and out little friend burrowed a hole in the soil and lived in its box. We kept it in the front kitchen as that was the warmest, and saw to it that The Bogey was kept out. He was very good, but we had no wish for him to be stung while trying to catch Wopsie - and he chased most things that flew.

And so Wopsie lived with us through the remaining months of that year, and into the beginning of the next.

But January brought with its snow and hard frosts, and one morning, when I went downstairs, there was our Wospie lying on its back quite dead, on the window-sill beside its box.

It may seems queer, but we really grieved for our little winged friend who had been s faithful, and, considering it was a wasp, so gentle. We had no nest next summer, and in the August we left that house, and so far we have had none where we now are. But we often talk of our Wopsie, water-carrier to the queen, and faithful chum to two humans.

Wopsie the Water-Carrier Illustration (Page 141)