Although they feed not on raw flesh only and ripe Apples, but upon Pears, Grapes, Flowers, and sundry sorts of fruits; also on the sap of Elms, Sugar, Honey, and almost whatever. They feed on the flesh of Serpents, and then they sting mortally.
T. Muffet, The Theater of Insects (1658)
The drawing hanging above the Herbarium coordinates not only with the face of the cabinet which is devoted to fruit, but also with the drawing hanging over the darker, twin Sky cabinet. Both have a dominant circular feature and phases of the moon. In this case the circle is a plate or charger for a bowl of apricots and the phases of the moon refer to theories of appropriate planting times. A Polyphemus moth is the single representative of an insect group other than wasps.
While bees are covered with hairs that help collect and carry pollen, wasps have relatively slick bodies. Nonetheless, wasps are incidental pollinators for many plants and specialist pollinators for other plants, such as figs. In addition to pollinating edibles, wasps deserve their place at the table of fruit also because they are essential in their role of keeping in check insects that are harmful. Solitary wasps parasitize a vast variety of insects that are harmful to crops.
A small minority of wasps are aggressive and able to sting.
I chose to depict a table set with fruit and added a variety of wasps because they are so very beautiful - colorful and with such distinctive and interesting body shapes. I have probably done them no service in the long run as people are sometimes bothered by yellow jackets when eating out of doors and this might just bring back memories of bad experiences.
Once, while I tried to cook dinner for biologists working in the field in Idaho hundreds of hornets joined me. I was not stung. They were interested in eating what I was preparing but it was frightening to be surrounded by them. A person who was from the area helped me out by setting up a large bowl of water with a little liquid detergent and two big sausages suspended above. The wasps ate almost half of the sausages but many died in the attempt by landing in the water. I was not happy about their demise but it was a case of self protection and getting dinner on the table.
My grandmother Borchert's beautiful white porcelain cup with the gold rim holds a plum. Her mother's Art Nouveau cocoa cup holds champagne grapes. A ceramic cup by Chris Jackman of Royal Oak, Michigan, in between the two holds a fig.