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Wasp nest

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Old Monday 27th July 2009, 10:19   #1
bill moss
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Wasp nest

Good morning,

I'm basically a birder but I do take an interest in what else I see around.

Yesterday I was on a pathway following a small river and saw what I believe is a Wasp nest. I say 'believe' because the insects concerned were much small and darker than Common Wasps (to which I am allergic by the way so avoid if possible).

The first shot shows the immediate location of the nest and you'll see that it's in a steep bank. The bank is about 10-15 feet high and was probably cut away when the path was constructed; it has trees on the top and is well covered with plants, including the brambles that you can see. Along the bank are several erosion gullies, usually close to tree roots, and the nest is in one of those, which raises the question as to how they managed to build it. The nest is central, just above the foliage sprig.

My first thought was that they might be Digger Wasps and had burrowed into the bank and built inside during the dry spell that we had a few weeks back, since when the rain had washed away the soil covering and exposed the nest. You can see the normal type of erosion debris at the bottom of the shot. The alternative would be that they simply built into an existing gully but then why didn't they get washed away when the rains came and in any case, why doesn't the nest fill up the water (the lower part anyway)?

Shot 2 shows the nest, and 3 shows quite a lot of inhabitants crawling around on the surface (repairs?); note the entrance on the LH side (as you look).

The insects were very busy, with a constant stream in and out but I couldn't find where they were going (probably across the river to a large garden) so couldn't get an individual close-up

So, can anyone please tell me what species of Wasp (if they are Wasps), and please note in shot 3 the odd man out on the right, what is that?

Thanks in anticipation,

Bill
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Old Monday 27th July 2009, 11:08   #2
Wildwood
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Definitely social wasps.

Very hard to tell species but they look like either Vespula vulgaris (common wasps) or V. germanica to me. Size can vary a lot. Nest structure/patterning would also fit one of these. The wasps that build subterranean (not exposed to light so as well as underground may include nests in attics etc) nests include V. vulgaris, V. germanica, V. rufa and sometimes Dolichovespula sylvestris. Other species of Dolichovespula usually build exposed aerial nests in bushes or under eaves etc. There are always exceptions though. The odd wasp on the right is probably a male which often have reduced banding.

The nest cavity may have only started out as tennis ball sized. As more and more workers are produced the nest obviously gets larger. In order for the nest to expand the cavity is enlarged by the workers, and as this one is on a vertical bank it probably weakened it causing it to subside exposing the nest. I'm sure rain also played a part. Also, badgers often expose nests by digging down to get the grubs but probably not on a high vertical band like this.
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Old Monday 27th July 2009, 12:03   #3
Bird-Nut
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Hi Bill,

Great photos of the nest. What a fine example of 'natures architecture'. Just out of interest there is a place called Wasps Nest in Lincolnshire (Which is also a good area for birds such as Marsh Harrier, Barn Owls amongst others)
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Old Tuesday 28th July 2009, 08:43   #4
bill moss
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Hi Wildwood,

Thanks for the info.

I hear what you say but I'm still puzzled because I've had experience of a Common Wasp nest in the roof 2 years ago (see below) and the size and behaviour of this latest lot doesn't match up with then; these are smaller and much less noisy in flight.

Shall have to go back sometime and see if I can find an individual to get closer to.

Thanks again

Bill
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