Monday, September 23, 2013

The Social Wasp

This nest us under the eve of the chicken house... terrifying!
 
This time of year it seems the social wasp has taken an extreme dislike to humankind and they are poised to attack at a moments notice. A very nervous insect on a good day, lately they are like gun slingers at the OK Corral! It is because they are in a last minute fervor of mating to ensure survival of their species. Wasp society is typically matriarchal, the female is the one with the sting, it is best to stay clear since she wants no interruptions for this final party.

The days of the colony are numbered and soon many wasps will die leaving behind the mated queens who will find a place to hibernate for the winter. In the early spring the females emerge to find a suitable place to build a nest. Their bodies already contain fertilized eggs from last fall so they need only to select a place secure from the elements to begin the cycle of reproduction. Once the site is selected, surviving females gather to build a paper nest.

Intricate paper Nest is visible... these are in the ivy outside the front door!

Some studies indicate that several species of social wasps select a the queen through a contest within the group who gather in early spring. All of the females within this species are capable of laying eggs however the one with the ability to eat the eggs of her rivals wins. Following selection of the winner all other females stop laying eggs and the losers become workers, foraging for their queen and raising her young.

In other species, the female lays the eggs and raises the first young wasps herself… the first of the eggs to hatch are always sterile female who become workers who take over for their mother. They expand the nest and maintain their siblings in a series of intricate brooding cells. It is easy to determine the number of wasps in a colony by the size of the nest. Large colonies, which can number into the thousands, have extremely large and intricate nests.

As with Ants, male wasps are relatively unimportant and rather like dead beat dads. There is little necessity for them with exception of fertilization of the eggs as they contribute nothing to the hive. Wasp males born late in the season have the express purpose of embracing the females and following this task they die.

The wasp is a fierce natural predator, eliminating many garden pests, so oftentimes useful to ignore them. However stay clear of the excited buzzing-about that is occurring now; they are happy to attack enmass in a painful, terrifying swirl.