24 July 2013

rise and fall - a wasp tale

While working on that rowboat project a couple weeks ago,
I discovered a little wasps nest.
Typically I'll brush them away,
basically destroying their little hovels.
Those things have stingers and they seem vicious right?
san diego paper wasp

This time was different,
as the nest was easy to reach.
I picked it off and noticed it was full of tiny little amber eggs.
Dang it.
How could I destroy a little baby wasp crib?
I'm the convenient environmentalist type,
and can appreciate the ecosystem thriving in our backyard.
We've got tons of random butterflies, bees, ladybugs, june bugs,
birds, flies, wasps, big ole orb weaver spiders...
Peaceful to watch from the back stoop.
wasp nest

A couple minutes later,
the wasp flew to the spot the nest should have been,
and hovered around the area for a good couple minutes.
It reminded me of a parent looking for her kids.
I ended up gluing the nest to a piece of wood,
and placed it close to where it had been.
We watched as the wasp found it and went through each hole,
checking on the brood.
wasp nest back side

Here's where the story gets a little skewed.
Another little wasp nest was found in the boat.
(except for the top pic these photos are unrelated to this part of the story!)
Time for an experiment.
Since the glue was out,
I attached the little nest to the side of the first nest.
When the first wasp found it,
there was a little double take,
but it still checked in each hole.
Even the strangers eggs.
paper honey comb

Wouldn't you know it,
but a half hour later the second wasp came looking for it's missing nest.
How it found the spot over 20 feet away is still a mystery.
This nest was hidden and maybe it was resting on it when we moved the boat.

Ok here's where the tale turns to the dark side.
Out of curiosity we slowly moved the glued nest to the second wasp spot,
carrying along with it wasp #1.
The kids and I watched as the wasp #2 flew near the nest,
and wasp #1 went in protector mode,
buzzing its wings and then flying this crazy attack maneuver.

I realized that these wasps were actually intelligent.
They had location memory and parental skills.
As the weeks passed,
instead of destroying each nest we found,
we learned to co-exist.
Even though the wasps looked menacing,
they tended to keep to themselves.
wasp vs spider

Fast forward a couple weeks.
The wasp population was obviously growing.
Many nests were spotted and ignored...
I'm in the garage and what flies in but this giant wasp.
The queen?
No this one was carrying something.
It lumbered up to it's nest,
and I was shocked to see it had a huge Orb Weaver spider in its grasp!
The killer was stuffing the spider body into the hole!
Oh no.
You don't screw with our orb weavers.
Our front yard is usually full of intricate webs,
and they greet us every morning and night.
I love the methodical building and the patient way they hunt.
The spiders have really neat markings and colors,
and they grow to be quite large.
But not this year!
All of a sudden I had one of those revelations,
like the end of Fight Club or that "I see dead people" movie.
Holey Chit,
we've been breeding spider killers!
mud wasp nest

The kids and I went on a search and destroy mission.
Within half an hour all the nests were taken down.
There were way more than I had thought.
hack carpentry hiding wasp nest

My hack carpentry work of that shed had hidden two wasp hives
In each corner the nests were easily 10 inches long,
and buzzing with wasps.
hidden wasp hive

These were tough to get.
Check out this fat wasp baby!
No wonder there haven't been many spiders out this summer.
Dang it!
fat wasp larva

So much for our natural bug ecosystem!
We had to balance the playing field.
Hopefully the spider population will bounce back...


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