Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Not for the faint wasp hearted

Here we go again. More more MORE wasp nests! Since James isn't home right now, I decided I'd go around the house and take photos of ALL our wasp nests under the roof eaves. (He'd like to make them all disappear.) Oh, my, we DO have quite a healthy population!

So what is it about wasps that make most of us want to knock them down and even kill them? I debated the issue a little in a July 2012 post, "Uh oh, we may have a problem, NASA." That month, we did end up getting rid of that particular nest because the wasps had built it right over the garage door, and we were concerned that someone might get stung if the wasps got agitated. 
To refresh, these are paper wasps, more specifically Polistes exclamans. Online, I found some interesting write-ups on the species, such as this one by Jim Conrad. According to his remarks, these wasps are definitely Polistes exclamans because the "distinguishing feature" are the orange tips on the wasps' brown antennae. (I blew up one of my photos and, sure enough, made out the orange-tipped antennae.) 
When I have more time, I'd like to read and study the Polistes exclamans species account on iNaturalist.org. For now, I believe it's okay to leave our wasp nests alone. They feed on caterpillars and other insects. Oh, Jammmessssss!


Debra said...

They are beautiful and so clever. They can recognize each other's faces. We used to have a VERY large colony of them but somehow the population has dwindled other the years. The wasps used to follow me around as I worked outside. In about 15 years I never once got stung. I just adore them.

TexasDeb said...

So timely! We try to leave these wasps alone but after The Hub got stung this year he's a lot less enthusiastic about their partnership outside. Earlier today I stopped work on a pruning project, trying to clear sprinkler heads, due to running across both types of paper wasp nests in branches of volunteer hackberries growing amongst opuntia. (as advertised, when the polistes exclamans became alarmed by my proximity, they started to vibrate their wings and bodies). Talk about working slowly and carefully - there were spiny/stingy hazards everywhere I turned, so I called it a day.

We're forced to either wait for colder weather to remove the overgrowth (which might be a death sentence for the plants left high and dry) or we'll have to take out the nests prior to completing the work. You are so right - gardening is not for the faint of heart!

Ragna said...

Wow -- what wonderful photos!!!

I love paper wasps. Nests of all sizes are all over my place, and I find them very non aggressive. I'm outside so much they recognize me and don't sting me even if I accidentally bump their nest, Not so for hubby, but he tolerates them for my sake.

But one year when I planted a lot of butterfly host plants I decided to knock the wasp nests down as soon as they appeared to give the butterfly caterpillars a better chance as butterfly appearances had been rather sparse in my yard. That year, of 26 years living here, I had the ONLY aphid infestation ever on my pecan tree plus a bunch of tent caterpillars! The aphids constantly rained down 'honey dew' making a mess of everything around the tree. Flag stone paths, furniture, plants were all covered with the black mold that grew on the honey dew.

The only thing different that I could think of was the absence of wasps as most of my neighbors knock down their nests. So I let 'my' wasps stay the next year and guess what -- no aphids and no tent caterpillars. At any given time you can look up at the tree and see paper wasps cruising around it presumably looking for aphids and tent caterpillars.

They may also eat a few butterfly cats, but with all the host plants I have growing here plenty survive for me to enjoy.

Thanks for the great links. I read them all.

Sheryl Smith-Rodgers said...

I so wish my wasps had hunted down the caterpillars that devastated my wild blue indigo that was doing so well. I ended up picking off and killing them in hopes of saving my indigo. I think I almost did, until this heat kicked in and finished it off. Sniff.

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