Posts Tagged 'wasps'

Pulp Nonfiction

All right, then, I will admit an obsession with these Bald-faced Hornet nests.

The scraps of paper blown down from one that I bought home recently revealed at least two tiny invertebrate species making their home there after the wasps were undone by the year.

At 10x magnification, you really begin to see the tiny fibers of wood pulp, so painstakingly gathered.

Snow Hat

Within a short distance of the 25th St. entrance to Green-Wood, there are five of these big Bald-faced Hornet nests.A pair in neighboring trees.
And yesterday, I found some of the paper of one of them strewn about.
Now that’s what I call wrapping paper!


Paper can be strong stuff, but it’s all relative. The exterior coating of wood-pulp paper made by Dolichovespula maculata hornets, who scrape dead trees (or fence posts!) with their mighty jaws, has been stripped off by the weather. Horizontal layers of comb are revealed within. And still-capped larvae probably all killed by the freeze.

The Bald-faced Hornet does not over-winter in the nest and won’t re-use it again next year. Instead, the sole survivor of the colony, a fertilized queen, takes her genetic treasures into hiding, under bark, in attics, holes in trees, etc., to await the spring.

With the fall of the leaves, these large nests clumping in trees mark the presence of creatures that were around us all summer long. Yet  I, for one, don’t often see the actual wasps themselves.

Memento Mori

Found in the shadowy gully between window and screen of someone else’s fourteenth story apartment, a veritable mausoleum of desiccated Diptera and at least one Hymenoptera.

I’m just finishing up my costume for tonight: I’m going as a landfill full of Halloween garbage.

So Many Monarchs

Have you noticed what a good year it is for Monarch Butterflies? There have been lots of positive reports from around the city and further afield about the large numbers of Danaus plexippus being seen. On Saturday, I walked from Sunset Park to Park Slope and back again to pick up some baked goods. I was distracted: over two hours, I counted 51 Monarchs, the majority of them overhead, heading south towards Mexico along 5th Avenue. Detouring into Green-Wood, I found fourteen. Not one was in the pretty plantings, all exotica, at the neo-gothic gate at 25th Street — a good argument for pollinator-friendly plantings. Because up in the native meadow patch — the prototype of a much larger hillside native meadow project — there were at least half a dozen winking their enormous velvety wings. And in the extraordinarily productive low-growing Buddleja patch by Valley Water there were at least seven more. (Yes, this one spoils that native plant theory…) Normally, I only see one or two Monarchs around these candy purple flowers, which have been swarming with Painted Ladies (Vanessa cardui) for a solid month and a half. Portrait of a Lady. There has also been a single Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia) in this patch, as well as a whole crowd of skippers (and European Hornets trying to tackle everything). Note that small gap in the hind-wing of this individual; I’ve been seeing this one for a while now. Why go somewhere else to feed?

Sceliphron caementarium

What the well-dressed mud-daubing wasp is wearing: black and yellow.The Black and Yellow Mud Dauber builds a mud nest. Trypoxylon politum, the Pipe Organ Mud Dauber, is almost all black and builds pipe organ-like nests.Here’s another gathering mud. Her left antenna is broken off. She does not seem to get much mud per trip. This must make for a lot of back and forth! It helps if the nest is nearby. This particular wasp flew off faster than I could follow. But another nearby (this is damn good mud!) flew fifteen feet away from the murky pond. The rusting iron cap on the urn on the left shelters her nest. The metal juts out on this side, making for a wasp-sized passage. She’ll seal up her eggs in mud cells in there, along with the entombed paralyzed spiders she has provisioned the larval wasps with. The specific epithet caementarium means mason, or builder of mud walls. Some years back, I had one of their nests in my old Cobble Hill backyard.

Cicada Killer

Every August you’re practically guaranteed to see poor soul someone jump and shout in terror when they see a Cicada Killer Wasp. Sphecius speciosus are big; over an inch, and tend to fly low when they’re not scouting out trees for cicadas to capture.You need a big wasp to take home a big bug. It’s a wrestle.


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