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Posts tagged “Wasps

Common Aerial Yellowjackets

Common Aerial Yellowjackets derive their common name from the fact that their nests are often aerially constructed, unlike the underground yellowjackets we’re more familiar with. Being in the same genus, it’s not surprising that Bald-faced Hornets and Common Aerial Yellowjackets build nests that are almost identical. The nests of both species have two to six horizontally-arranged layers of comb (for eggs and larvae) inside several layers of protective paper envelopes. The easiest way to tell which species made a nest is to see if there are yellow (yellowjacket) or white ( hornet) markings on the residents. The yellowjackets on the outside of the nest in the photograph are all busy making paper-mache out of wood fiber and applying it to their nest in order to enlarge it.

Close-up of Entire Organ Pipe Mud Dauber Nest

The images in a slideshow are smaller than if they were posted individually, so I thought I would include a single shot of the first image, showing all of the cells in the nest’s three tubes.

Organ Pipe Mud Dauber Wasps

There are basically two groups of wasps: 1) social wasps, such as hornets, yellowjackets and paper wasps and 2) solitary wasps, species that live solitary lives and typically hunt prey for their larvae (the adults consume nectar). Mud daubers are a type of solitary wasp.   Organ Pipe Mud Daubers builds cell out of mud in which they put prey (usually spiders) that they have stung and paralyzed, but not killed. They then lay an egg on top of the spiders, and seal the cell. After the egg hatches, the larval wasp consumes the still-fresh spiders, pupates, emerges as an adult wasp and chews its way out of the cell. In this picture a female Organ Pipe Mud Dauber wasp has collected a ball of mud and is applying it to the most recent cell she is making. The name “organ pipe” comes from the shape of the “pipes”, which consist of several cells, placed end-to-end, with the most recent cell at the bottom. (Notice the new, wet mud is darker in color.)

Blackberry Knot Gall

12-28-10      Blackberry Knot Gall

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Winter is a good time to look for galls (abnormal plant growths caused by different agents, including insects, fungi, mites and bacteria) such as the blackberry knot gall, which is much more noticeable when there are no leaves to hide it. Whereas many galls are inhabited by a solitary insect, the blackberry knot gall contains many individual chambers, each containing the larva of the tiny wasp Diastrophus nebulosus. During the spring and summer months, this little wasp deposits eggs into the ridged stems of blackberry which stimulates the plant’s tissue into abnormal growth along the stem. This particular colonial gall can be six inches in length, although two or three inches is more typical (the more eggs that are laid, the larger the gall).  The eggs hatch and the larvae overwinter inside the gall. Adult wasps emerge in the spring and chew their way out of the gall, leaving tiny holes along the gall’s lumpy ridges. In the first photograph you can see where a hungry predator has worked its way into two of the larval chambers.  In the second, multiple chambers and larvae are exposed (sacrificed for the sake of knowledge, but popular food for chickadees on a very cold morning).


Mud Dauber Wasp Nest

There are many species of mud dauber wasps in New England that use mud to make cells for their eggs, developing larvae and pupae.  One of them is Pison koreense, a small, black wasp with a wingspread of less than half an inch.  This particular wasp is native to Korea, China and Japan, and was accidentally introduced in the United States after World War II.  Like other mud daubers, this wasp constructs one cell at a time with her mandibles; there can be anywhere from 1 to 12 mud cells (each roughly ¼” long) in a nest, which is often located in a crevice or behind bark.  She then hunts for spiders, stinging and paralyzing them before carrying them back to the cell, into which she stuffs them.  After collecting 20 – 30 spiders, she lays a tiny white egg on the last (and often largest) spider to be placed in the cell.  She then flies off and collects mud with which she seals the cell.   The egg hatches, the wasp larva consumes the live spiders and then pupates, spending the winter inside a cocoon inside the mud cell.  In the spring the adult wasp emerges from the cocoon and chews her way out of the cell, leaving a circular exit hole.

European Paper Wasp

The European paper wasp (Polistes dominula) was introduced to the New Jersey Pine Barrens in 1968, and has since spread throughout most of the North America.  Considered an invasive species by most entomologists, it looks more like a yellowjacket than the paper wasp that it is.  The European paper wasp nests earlier in the spring, in a wider variety of nest sites, and feeds on a larger variety of insects than native species of wasps.  In the photograph if you look closely you can see that it is scraping off a fine line of dead plant tissue on the underside of this leaf, assumedly for use in expanding its paper nest.