The Will of the Wasps

While doing some work on our house today, I suddenly heard a thump and then saw my guy down on the deck. Huh? He’d been on a ladder last I knew. I grabbed the phone as I dashed out the door.

With a grin, he assured me that he was OK, but that he’d been stung on the ankle, first by a bee and then a double sting by a wasp. Neither of us was surprised, given the wildflowers in the garden where the ladder was placed so he could reach a second floor eave.

I spend hours watching all the pollinators at work, getting to know them by species and habit. But . . . I stand still for the most part and they fly around me. His movements were much quicker and more intentional.

h-hornets nest 1

As we surveyed the garden and figured the best path for his return to it, we made a discovery–the wasps were building a home of their own right beside the narrow path my guy had been following to retrieve different tools. Notice the topaz-colored wing? It fluttered like mad, though that wasp stood still.  Was it sending some sort of message to others?

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If so, there were plenty of workers available to receive the memo–each doing its job of contributing to the construction project.

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Below and above, they came and went, the tools of their trade being within their mouths.

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They’d collected plant and wood fiber, mixed it with saliva, and chewed it into a papier-mâché of their own form.

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The location of choice for this latest construction was against an old tractor wheel that leans against the house. Over the years, we’ve found them building everywhere, but what my guy doesn’t know …

h1-horn 1

is that a few months ago a queen began an umbrella-like structure in the back door jam.

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I watched the dangling nest slowly take form.

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Within each cell . . .

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an individual egg was deposited.

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Two wasps never seemed to mind that I pulled a kitchen chair over and climbed up to watch the action.

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Work continued from morning to night, the wasps slipping away through a sliver of space in the outer door and then returning. Late in the afternoon, they settled on the nest and didn’t move until the next morning. Eventually, I knew I had to put an end to this construction project and while the adults were off seeking more fiber, I removed it. And felt guilty. But, I didn’t want my family to get stung–famous last words.

h-hornet on goldenrod

Paper wasps aren’t typically aggressive unless they perceive a threat–and today, much to my guy’s dismay, they felt threatened.

Despite the confrontation, we have to remember that they are beneficial to the garden as pollinators and predators.

My guy survived and for a bit longer, so will the wasps.

6 thoughts on “The Will of the Wasps

  1. Wonderful photographic drama, Leigh! Love following you and ‘your guy’ along the ways of your wonder!!

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  2. Incredible nest-building photos! Wow.
    Every year we have hornets build nests on the frame above the garage door. I don’t feel guilty about taking those down.

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