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Archive for August 27th, 2013

The Paper Wasps

Studio Paper Wasp Nest 1 smallA while back, I went down to an old large pine tree that sits by the drive going into our place.  A large lower limb had broken and was hanging to the ground and I took a pole saw down to cut it off.  I started cutting and suddenly felt a burning sensation on the fingers of my right hand.  In an instant, the same shooting stings were firing all over my left shoulder blade.  What the hell?!  My mind raced and at once I knew that I was being attacked by bees or wasps.  Leaving the saw, I ran away from the tree, squealing as the offending insects kept stinging me, obviously trapped in my shirt.

I shed the shirt and, panting and grimacing from the many stings, headed back to see what had attacked me.  From a distance , of course.  I circled the tree and kneeling saw what I had missed when I first went to the tree.  A large paper wasp nest.

Studio Paper Wasp Nest smallThough I was in pain and wanted to retaliate in anger, there was no denying the beauty of the nest, a large egg shaped structure built from a combination of wood fiber and wasp saliva that is both strong and waterproof.  The swirling texture of it was fascinating and the bottom of it jutted out slightly around the entrance where several wasps hovered, ready to protect the structure in an instant.

I left to tend to my stings, all fourteen of them, and to ponder what to do with the nest.  We did a little research and, finding how beneficial the wasps are in the maintenance of the bug population, decided to simply avoid the nest and let them live out the season where they were.  At the end of the year when the weather cooled, the wasps would pass away and the magnificent structure would be ripped apart by other creatures, blue jays and squirrels to name two, who would make use of the material for their own nests.

Studio Paper Wasp Nest3 smallI periodically go down and check on the nest, wondering at the wasps’ ability to produce such magnificent architecture with their own bodily fluids as well as their innate understanding of the required engineering.   Such a gorgeous organic structure.   I also learned that they also produce a chemical that they spread around the branches that hold the nest in place that repels ants who might raid their nest to feed on the wasp eggs.  Just amazing stuff.

We live in the midst of other worlds of wonder and often don’t get a chance or fail to take notice.  While I would have preferred to have not been stung by the otherwise non-aggressive paper wasps, I am glad to have encountered them, glad to see how they survive and prosper in their little world of wonder.

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