Posts Tagged 'wasps'

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.

The King is Dead

A freshly dispatched Monarch (Danaus plexippus).Cause of death unknown. But the head was missing.While we were surveying the corpse, a European Paper Wasp (Polistes dominula) showed up to browse in the facial cavity. These wasps chew up insect bits to feed their young. The mostly orange antenna of P. dominula are a good identification short cut. I made a short film of the wasp dragging the corpse. The next day the four wings of the butterfly were still there, but separated.

This Monarch, by the way, was a male. In the top photo, you can see the spot-like thickening of the ribs in the hindwing.

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If your brain isn’t eaten by wasps, you may want to take a look at this revelatory review of a new book about how economists and their plutocratic funders have used race since the Civil Rights era (and before, going back to Calhoun’s defense of property — i.e. slavery — above all against the forces of democracy).

Vespa Crabro

The last two summers, I saw solitary examples of a very large, yellow-abdomened wasp in Green-Wood. They moved constantly, never staying still long enough to be photographed. Last summer I identified them as European Hornets, Vespa Crabro; the species has been in North American since at least 1840.This summer, I finally found one hanging around. They will take larger prey, but this one caught and dispatched a Honey Bee (Apis mellifera; another Eurasian species). Worth opening up this image for a larger view if you have the stomach for it.They use their powerful jaws to chew up wood to make paper nests, rather like our Bald-faced Hornets. That means this bee got chomped up pretty quickly in those choppers.  The wasp is hanging by its hind two legs as it maneuvers the bee around with its other four legs. It was quick work.These Vespa live in nests of up to a thousand workers. I’ve only ever seen one at a time, but then, they generally hunt at night (which is unusual for wasps). Although big and scary looking — you wouldn’t want to be the bee here — they are “gentle giants” and are only aggressive in defending their nests.

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Everything but the sheet: Donald J. Trump is an avowed Nazi-symphathizer.

Great Golden Digger

Busy as a wasp. A Great Golden Digger Wasp (Sphex ichneumoneus).She builds a nearly vertical burrow with cells off of a central tunnel, each stockpiled with paralyzed grasshoppers and katydids for her young.


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