Thursday, 23 June 2016

A wasp nest in the shed - some people's nightmare, but my dream!

Yesterday my dad found something unusual in our shed - a wasp's nest. It was in a torn bag full of sheets of acoustic insulation, strangely enough, and they had chosen to create their nest attached to one of these sheets.

As you can see from the picture, the wasps have built their nest attached to one of the pieces of acoustic insulation, as well as attached to the top of the bag. However, the nest has been tore apart, so you can see most of it on the sheets, and a bit on the bag. Later we put the 2 pieces back together again, and the next day (today) they had repaired the nest! It looked like there had never been any damage at all.
The little white things in the nest that you can see are wasp larvae, and they will be cared for by the workers until they become an adult wasp.

The queen wasp will build her nest out of chewed up wood, forming a pulp which she spits out. As it hardens, the wood pulp hardens into a papery substance in layers (as you can see in the picture). She will then create pentagonal 'cells', and she will lay a single egg in each, which will develop into a larva.

After finding it, we put the nest and the acoustic insulation it was attached to back in the shed. We checked back on them today, and as I said earlier, the nest was fully repaired. I wanted to identify the species of wasp, so I spent quite some time sat at the entrance of the shed, trying to catch the insects. I did not want to further disturb the nest by catching a wasp from there (nor was I overly keen on the idea of being chased by an angry swarm of wasps), so I caught one leaving the nest. After that, I could get to work identifying it.

After some time (and a brief excitement where I thought that it was a rare species), I identified it as a common wasp. I had been focusing too much on abdomen markings, which can be very variable, when the main identifying features where thoraxic markings and the size. My specimen had an anchor-shaped markings on its clypeus (above the mandibles), and elongated yellow markings on the metatonum. Further more, it had a triangular yellow spot on its episternum, a spot on the propodeum, and further yellow markings on the pronotum. All these were features of the common wasp, Vespula vulgaris. Somewhat disappointing after getting all excited about a rare species! However, it is still an amazing animal, and it was time well spent, because now I know the best ways to identify wasp species.

Until next time, keep on the wild side!

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