Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Wasp House

I love birdhouses! I collect them and decorate inside and out with birdhouses.

Each year a family of swallows resides in one birdhouse outside my front door. Their name is the Swooper Family. The Swoopers ride the airwaves around the garden scooping up mosquitoes, knats. Sometimes they swoop around me when I am working in the yard but do so in a friendly way. I talk to them and welcome their arrival every spring. I would love to know if it is the same parents or if their off spring now come to the summer home.

There are also chickadees, nuthatches and sparrow nesting in my birdhouses. Guess I am a landlord for the birds! They are all welcome.

This summer I have new tennants. An extended family of jellow jacket wasps has taken over the highrise apartment complex in the front yard. They pushed out a family of chickadees that had taken up residence and I only hope they were able to leave safely with their brood before the interloppers arrived.

I did not see the swarm arrive but noticed a couple going in and out of the top apartment over a period of a couple of days. Next thing I knew paper was beginning to appear around the roof line. I looked them up and they create the paper from dried wood and bark mixed with saliva. Now there is a very lively hive in there and just standing near the box you can hear the hummmm of the little buggers. Hives have one queen who creates the offspring and hives often contain thousands of wasps!

Wasps can do good in the garden. They eat catapillars, other larvae, flyes and bees. I am sure my edible front yard is a happy neighborhood for them. I have been watching them come to the pond to drink. The pond is a heavy duty plastic bath tub I bought at a Korean grocery store. The owners told me it is called a sit bath and is used by young and old alike. I have used it as a garden pond three different places I have lived over the years and it has withstood freezing without any trouble. One year I even had gold fish thriving till a raccoon found them and had them for sushi dinner. The water plants don't seem to need a pump and one day maybe I will get around to installing a fountain to get some nice bubbling water noises. But I digress.
Wasp stings are very nasty. Only the females have a stinger with which they insert venom using their ovipostior (50 cent word for stinger) multiple times. Wasp venom contains factors that release histamine, which dissolves red blood cells. Most people can survive many stings, responding with only temporary pain and swelling, but to hyperallergic individuals-about 1 percent of the population-a wasp sting can be fatal. If you are stung by a wasp, seek medical attention. If your pet is stung, find a nearby animal hospita. I do have a sting kit with antihisimen injector in my first aid kit and carry one in the car for emergencies.

In the late summer, the colony produces reproductives which are insects that will mate. The mated female reproductives will serve as the next generation of queens in the following spring. The male's main purpose is mating and they cannot sting. Hmmm I have known some men like that. Sorry fellas had to say it. Wasp nests are abandoned by wintertime and the future queens seek shelter alone, in protected places under tree bark, in old stumps, or sometimes attics. The current year's nests are not reused the following spring.
In the fall I will have to do something to move them to they don't move into the crawl space above the garage. In the meantime, I have to admit they are facinating to watch. There are always 4-5 outside sitting around the hole. I call them the guardians of the gate. Then there are the foragers coming and going. They fly out in a straight line so if I get close I come in at an angle and to date they have not seemed to care. then there are some that are working on making paper for the nest. Guess the box must be full of paper now and I wonder how they all fit into that space?

The birdhouse came from a yardsale and I believe I paid a whopping $3 for it. Tim put in a post and secured it to the top of the post near the end of the picket fence. He faced it towards the front window so I could watch the birds. One day he decided to paint the post white to match the fence. That was the day we realized there were more than a couple of wasps out there. Seems a swarm chased him back into the house. The post is not going to be white till they are gone needless to say.

I have heard about a local fellow who comes with a vacuum and sucks out bees, wasps and hornets and sells them for medical experimentation. Since I know not of any way to naturally encourage them to move I might call him. The only other method I know other than a can of poison is to go out after dark when they have settled in for the night and put a large garbage bag over the top of the birdhouse and seal the bottom. Guess they die from lack of oxygen and sufficate. I really try not to kill critters, even the nasty ones. But I do love sitting at my patio table having dinner outside on a nice evening and not fighting the wasps for the food on my table. I also don't want to hear the kids next door screaming if they get stung or bit and then feeling guilty that I did not do something to take care of the problem.

I will report back on the wasp situation as it progresses..........bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

1 comment:

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