Posts Tagged 'wasps'

“As Big As A Lear Jet”

Sphecius speciosusA couple of years ago, I saw Cicada Killer Wasps (Sphecius speciosus) tunneling nests in two different tree pits in my neighborhood. One of those pits is again a nesting site. It’s notable on the block because it’s the only pit that has a good expanse of bare soil. This wasp was patrolling one of two tunnels here. I’ve read that several females may cooperate on digging one of the long tunnels.

The species name speciosus is from the Latin for showy or beautiful. True enough, but like many things of beauty, your standard human is afraid of them. The males, like all bees and wasps, don’t have stingers to sting. The females would rather save their sting for cicadas, meat for their young. So chill, and enjoy. My hand is inches from this one.

I’ve heard less than half a dozen cicadas in the last month. It’s only the beginning of August, though, and the Dog Days are just beginning.


Dolichovespula maculataBald-faced hornet (Dolichovespula maculata) cutting away at the black locust hand-rails at the Native Plant Garden at NYBG.Dolichovespula maculataLook at those mandibles! Several hundred workers in a colony will build up those football-sized nests so beloved by nature bloggers from wood pulp and saliva; it looks like a lot of work, because it doesn’t seem like much wood is taken by each individual wasp:IMG_6113Dolichovespula maculata

Silent Nests

Revealed by the thinning of the leaves, two more Bald-faced Hornet (Dolichovespula maculata) nests:Dolichovespula maculataDolichovespula maculataNote the differences in the color pattern of the wood-pulp paper between the above nest and the one below. I have some paper that is predominately reddish, but the one above is the usual pattern I see here in Brooklyn. The all-gray one below is unusual looking.Dolichovespula maculataBoth of these were nearly twice as large as the one I recently discovered in Prospect.

Update: I saw three more of these in Prospect Park today.

Low hanging fruit

waspsI hope your Halloween was without plastic, styrofoam, and corn syrup.

After merely a summer dies the hornet

Dolichovespula maculataUnless she’s a queen. A Bald-faced Hornet (Dolichovespula maculata), caste unknown, unexpectedly by the front door buzzer.

I rarely see this species, but I know they are neighbors. A local nest was revealed by the fall of leaves a couple of seasons ago. The wood-pulp paper nests are abandoned in the fall and not reused, making them safe for removal and adding to your bookshelf. Fertilized queens squirrel themselves away for the winter, to start again the generations next year… if they make it through the winter.

Under A Big Big Sky

Petrified ForestPetrified Forest National Park.Petrified ForestAmid the lithified remains of an ancient forest, where the pebbles themselves were essentially petrified mulch, a moving white fluff on the ground was identified as a Thistledown Velvet Ant (Dasymutilla gloriosa), which is actually a wasp. The female is wingless and furry white, like the seedpod of a creosote bush or a cottonwood. She runs around looking for sand wasp nests to parasitize. Painted Desert


Sphex pensylvanicusFor the budding naturalists I met in the park while photographing these wasps, which of course I couldn’t remember the name of. There were about half a dozen on this milkweed, more than I’ve ever seen at once. This is the Great Black Wasp (Sphex pensylvanicus). The adults, like many of the big wasps, are gentle vegetarians, gathering nectar for themselves, while they hunt grasshopper and katydids for their young. And speaking of katydids, last night they were giving They Might Be Giants a run for the money in Prospect Park with their music.Sphex pensylvanicusIn the first photo, you can see where some of the little pollen packets, the pollinia, of the milkweed has attached itself to the wasp’s front leg.


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