"We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike." ~Maya Angelou

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Tis The Season For Wasps

The other day some child and I walked out to the swings at the farm. I started adjusting one of the blue swings and discovered a profusion of wasps. There were paper nests on both sides of the swing and above the limb from which the swing was hanging. Needless to say, we skipped swinging for that day and I reached for the wasp spray.
    I know, wasps have their place in the web of nature.  However, that place is not on or around the swings; nor is it in the chicken house, nor is it above my back door. Sorry, wasps.
     We have a lot of different types of wasps here, but the ones that really bug me are the Yellow Jackets. I did a little research and discovered that Yellow Jacket Wasps are a very large group, not simply the ones that I find hanging in the corners of the porch and under the top of the picnic table and  right above the chicken house door. I very nearly brushed across one of these nests while I was up in the peach tree yesterday, picking ripe peaches.

These wasps are said to not be aggressive, but they are very defensive of their homes.  I think they're cranky by nature, but that may just be me. They will chase you down, if they think you are a threat, and sting you repeatedly. No, they do not die after stinging, as honey bees do. They keep stinging and boy oh boy, a yellow jacket sting smarts like crazy. A friend of mine taught me to apply some Preparation H creme to the bites immediately and I tried it. Sure enough, that little trick works  like a charm. Thank you Mary. A paste made of baking soda and water also helps…a little.
     Then you have the Mud Daubers, our most common ones are colored a mix of brown,yellow, and black. They will sting you, but it won't hurt much.  These guys are mud engineers (not to be confused with mud engineers in the oil field). They build mud cells, lay an egg at the back of the cell, paralyze a few spiders and pack them in there, then seal the chamber shut.  By the time the larvae and has eaten its way through all the zombie spiders, the adult mud dauber is read to emerge. The second picture is of the paralyzed, but alive, spiders which were found inside a large nest under a house. Creepy.

There is also a Black Mud Dauber who doesn't even bother building its own house. It just moves in and remodels the abandoned homes of its cousin (above).  I especially like these black ones because they prefer Black Widow spiders. Ha! Take that, you red hourglass fiend.

And then there are these guys: the Cicada Killer wasps.
      The Cicada Killer Wasp is also in that large Yellow Jacket family I was telling you about earlier.
They are larger than the other wasps I've been talking about and they do exactly what their name says. They sting Cicadas and drag the paralyzed victims down into their underground burrows. The Cicadas are packed into one of many small side chambers off the main drag.  The wasp lays an egg inside the body of the still living Cicada and seals the room shut. (Apparently the larvae like live meat.) Soon the egg hatches and the larva eats it way out, through the poor Cicada, and the door, and climbs out of the burrow. Ta Da!
      Try not to let yourself think too deeply about that. Please, I beg you, do not engage in any mental role playing of what it must feel like to be the victim. No good can possibly come from such an exercise. It happens. Move on.

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