A Wasp Whodunnit

Something crept in…

and compromised the wasp nest. My last post showed adult paper wasps (Polistes metricus) evicting some of their young. The workers were clearing the nest of sick and poorly-developing larvae and pupae. A deadly agent had entered the nest. What was it? I had filmed eighty hours of surveillance video. Maybe I could figure that out.

My first clue was a scene that screamed foul play.  

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Image Credits: Carol Doeringer.

A Question of Palace Intrigue

The wasps seemed so nurturing.

Last month, I shared photos and videos of a paper wasp nest. I showed adults nourishing larvae until the little ones covered themselves with cozy silk blankies and snuggled in to pupate. So sweet…

Except, I left out the story’s cold-hearted, sinister part.

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Image Credits: Carol Doeringer.

Wasp Watching

You’re filming what?

A wasp nest, I repeated. The one over the sliding glass door.

We went outside for a look. Bert’s look said, you’re nuts.

I didn’t notice the nest until early August, when a wasp walking up the glass caught my eye. I grabbed a ladder and was mesmerized.

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Image Credits: Carol Doeringer.

Pop! Goes the Weevil (Larva)

I shipped seven pounds of acorns to Kentucky.

Not to feed any under-nourished squirrels. My acorns are for the University of Kentucky’s multi-year, genetic study of white oaks. Foresters believe the white oak is in decline, and the project’s goal is to identify trees with traits suggesting a higher likelihood of success in the forest. The research team hopes to acquire acorns from every county in every state in the white oak’s range.

What will they do with my (and everyone else’s) acorns?

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Image Credits: Carol Doeringer.

Undercover Larva

The fluffball was on the move. And it carried a big stick.

I immediately recognized the fluff as a debris-carrying lacewing larva. These insects wear impressive camouflage. Sometimes I’ll see plant material, bits of lichen, or spider silk. Or dead insects; carcasses the larva piled on its back after sucking out the victims’ guts. But never had I seen a larva sporting such an outsized element of disguise.
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Image Credits: Carol Doeringer, Brad Smith.

From Petticoat to Ball Gown

The insect looked all wrong.

It had bitty wings on a loooong body. Too many legs. And a big, see-through something that looked like a tail. I leaned in for a closer look.

A tree cricket was molting.

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Image Credits: Carol Doeringer.

Farmers in my Forest

The aphid looked like a kid that wants to be called on in a classroom.

But instead of hands, the creature’s rear legs were waving for attention. And in less than a minute, he got it—from an ant. The ant reached for the aphid. Then a glistening drop of honeydew—liquid poop—emerged from the aphid’s posterior.

And the ant…

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Image Credits: Carol Doeringer.

Silk Crossing

The katydid crept cautiously.

She was scaling our home’s vinyl siding. Slowly and deliberately, she would lift a leg. Sometimes, she waved it in the air. Then her foot patted the siding several times before committing to a landing spot. She seemed to be checking for obstacles like a sight-impaired person might use a cane to survey the sidewalk.

I peered closer. Then I saw the reason for her wary walking.

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Spin, Spin, Spin

I never cared much for spiders.

This summer was no exception. Our house is in the woods, and I’ve become accustomed to seeing webs draped here, there, and everywhere. But this year’s spider season seemed over the top, especially when measured by the quantity of spider poop I scrubbed—repeatedly and begrudgingly—off the siding.

Then, one little silk spinner made me reconsider my arachnid animus.

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Mystery of the Moth

A giant moth landed in our swimming pool.

It couldn’t swim, but not for lack of trying. The moth pushed and pulled its wings, as though doing the breaststroke. Bert pulled the creature from the water.  The soaked moth flapped its wings, turning quarter circles on the pool deck.

But the hot concrete was scorching my bare feet. I thought the insect might fry before it had a chance to dry out and fly.

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