Video of the Week: The "Halloween Bug"
This week's video concerns Asian ladybugs -- the species Harmonia axyridis. These ladybugs are a headache for homeowners because they like to spend the winter indoors in large clusters, and emit a foul stench if they are disturbed. Since their infestation usually occurs in late October, and some of them are more orange than red, they are sometimes referred to as "Halloween Bugs".
Here's a recent article about Asian ladybugs from an Illinois newspaper, and here's a link to some archived blog entries about Asian ladybugs.
And here's a video of a news report from last year's ladybug invasion in Lawrence, Kansas:
W*H*Y Wednesday: The Red Wasp, Part 1
Red Wasps are named for their overall rusty red coloration. They are rather large, at around 1 inch in length.
P. carolina Red Wasps are found primarily in the Southeastern part of the United States, as highlighted on this map illustration:
Habits: Red Wasp adult workers feed on sugary nectar and collect live prey to feed nest larvae. Caterpillars appear to be a preferred food source. Red Wasps have also been known to attack cicadas.
Red Wasp Nests: Red Wasp species are known to have some of the largest nests among Paper Wasps. Queens begin forming nests from wood and live plant fibers in the spring. Like other Paper Wasp species, Red Wasps create nests resembling an upside-down umbrella and exposed octagonal cells.
The P. carolina Red Wasp usually chooses exposed habitats for nesting, especially under roof eaves and in old tires.
Nature toward humans: Like many Paper Wasp species, Red Wasps are typically docile, but will become aggressive when provoked or when the nest is disturbed. Anecdotal evidence suggests that Red Wasp stings feel more painful than stings from other Paper Wasp species.
Video of the Week: Inside an Aerial Yellowjacket Nest
While most yellowjackets build nests that are hidden underground or in a wall void, there is a species called the Aerial Yellowjacket which frequently builds nests that are exposed, similar to Bald-faced Hornets and European Hornets.
VespineVid2's channel on YouTube has captured footage of two Aerial Yellowjacket nests: one in a tree, and one under a deck. It features some excellent close-up footage of the second nest being constructed by the queen and the workers, and some larvae hatching inside. It ends with a menacing swarm of the yellowjackets reacting to a loud noise.
Good news, men!
In case you were wondering... Swiss scientists have found that wasp stings do not cause male infertility.
W*H*Y Wednesday: Yet another Paper Wasp
This Wednesday's featured insect is yet another Paper Wasp species: Polistes metricus.
This wasp's appearance is a deep reddish-brown with black lines on the thorax, a darker brownish-black on the abdomen, and golden legs. Females have a reddish-brown face, while males have a golden yellow face.
Paper Wasp Habits: P. metricus workers can be seen foraging for protein -- most often caterpillars -- to feed nest larvae. In addition to protein, Paper Wasps will seek nectar and other sweet liquids for their own sustenance.
Habitat: P. metricus Paper Wasps are found in the highlighted area of the map below:
Paper Wasp Nests: Known to nest in both exposed and sheltered settings, P. metricus Paper Wasp nests are usually found under roof eaves and inside shrubs and trees. Like most species of Paper Wasps, P. metricus creates a nest in the shape of an upside-down umbrella with exposed octagonal brood cells.
Nature toward humans: Unless disturbed or agitated, P. metricus Paper Wasps will not exhibit aggressive behavior toward humans. However, caution should be used around nest sites.
On a personal note, I think this is the type of wasp that flew in my ear when I was 7 -- a terrifying episode in my young life. I remember that its coloration was dark brown, and I lived in a location (Pennsylvania) where these wasps were found. The wasp never did sting me... it just hung out in my ear canal long enough that we had to go to the hospital, where they simply flushed it out with water.
Video of the Week: European Hornet nest
Previous posts about European Hornets (Vespa crabro) -- sometimes referred to as giant hornets because of their large size -- have struck a nerve with readers. We've had many comments from people on the East Coast (New Jersey, Virginia) who have had encounters with these hulking hornets and are anxious for the W*H*Y Trap to come out so they can catch them.
This week we have two videos to share that each show an active European Hornet nest. The first one is very short, only :12 in length...
And the next one is just under a minute long, showing what happens when a (not-so-bright) person throws a tennis ball at an active giant hornet nest on the side of a house...
W*H*Y Wednesday: Golden or Northern Paper Wasp
This week's focus is on the Paper Wasp, Polistes fuscatus. This species is sometimes referred to as a Golden Paper Wasp or a Northern Paper Wasp.
P. fuscatus wasps are a dark reddish-brown color, with yellow bands across the body. They are distinguished from yellowjackets not only by their coloration but also by their pointed heads. Males of this species have curved antennae and more yellow on the front of the head.
Paper Wasp habits: P. fuscatus wasps are active during the day and rest on the nest at night. Adults feed on sugar and nectar-like food. They also prey on caterpillars, grasshoppers, locusts and crickets, using these protein sources to feed the larvae in the nest.
P. fuscatus is one of the most common wasps in North America. Even though this wasp is sometimes called the Northern Paper Wasp, it is found throughout the Eastern half of the United States and also in Montana, as illustrated by the highlighted portion of this map:
Paper Wasp nests: The native Paper Wasp tends to nest in woodlands and savannas, and can be found around manmade structures where exposed wood is available to be used for nest materials. Queens begin forming nests from wood and live plant fibers in the spring. Nests are a single paper-like comb of open hexagonal cells. The nests are oriented downwards and can contain up to 200 cells, with 20-30 adult wasps. They are relatively small in size and typically found in sheltered areas above or near ground level, such as eaves and roofs or even under rocks.
Nature toward humans: Paper Wasps are not terribly aggressive, but due to the proximity of the wasps to humans and their habitations in houses and other buildings, they can be dangerous. The females of these wasps have a venomous sting. Humans and domestic animals are at risk of aggravating Paper Wasps and suffering from stings.
This link on the University of Michigan site has more information on the P. fuscatus Paper Wasp.
Good news for those who have the P. fuscatus Paper Wasp in their backyard: The W*H*Y Trap for Wasps, Hornets & Yellowjackets will capture these wasps!
Fall is the time for flies
This time of year, the common house fly has an additional place to breed beyond the usual manure, compost piles, dumpsters, etc.... and that is turned-over tomato fields and vegetable gardens.
This article from TheHorse.com explains more.
Most notable quote:
"Calculated over an entire summer season, a pair of house flies could produce 191 quintillion flies, enough to cover the earth 47 feet deep, if all their progeny were to survive."
Wow. Good thing we have the RESCUE! Fly Trap to catch that progeny.
Video of the Week: Dry summer creates yellowjacket problem in New England
This week's video by WCVB-TV in Boston is from one year ago. After a hot and dry summer, residents of Massachusetts were having problems with ground-nesting yellowjackets -- including a beekeeper who accidentally walked over the entrance to an underground nest.
This is a good, factual report that even draws the distinction between docile, beneficial honeybees and yellowjacket wasps.
W*H*Y Wednesday: Golden Paper Wasp
As its common name suggests, the Golden Paper Wasp (Polistes aurifer) is distinguished by its golden yellow color, primarily on the head, abdomen, antennae, legs and wings. It commonly will have black markings on the head and abdomen and often rust-colored markings as well. As with other paper wasp species, the long back legs dangle down when a Golden Paper Wasp is flying.
Two links we found from different photographers in Arizona show different coloration for this wasp. The first shows an all-over golden yellow color (which could be a queen), and the second shows significant rust-colored markings for this species.
The highlighted portion of this graphic shows that this Golden Paper Wasp is found mainly in the Western half of the U.S. and Hawaii:
Habits: Golden Paper Wasps are active during the day and rest on the nest at night. Adult Golden Paper Wasps feed on sugar and nectar-like food. Larvae eat protein that is gathered and chewed by adult wasps that prey mostly on caterpillars. Colonies last one year, with new queens overwintering to make new nests the following spring.
Golden Paper Wasp nests: Queens begin forming nests from wood and live plant fibers in the spring. As with most species of paper wasp, the nests are a single paper-like comb of open hexagonal cells. Nests are oriented downwards and can contain up to 200 cells, with 20-30 adult wasps. They are relatively small in size and typically found in higher, sheltered locations.
Nature toward humans: Golden Paper Wasps are not aggressive, so there is little threat of swarming. Wasps will sting if handled or if the nest is disturbed. It is important to note that nests can often be found in areas of human traffic, substantially increasing the chances of accidentally disturbing hidden nests.
Wasp sting hinders another athlete
I posted back in July about how wasp or yellowjacket stings had negatively affected two athletes: a cyclist and a tennis player. Over the weekend, golfer Annika Sorenstam suffered a sting on her right hand during a tournament in the Bay Area, making her bad day worse.
Yellowjackets: "Don't come around here no more"
Reading this article about yellowjackets in Iowa, the aforementioned Tom Petty song came to mind when I happened upon this quote:
"The social insects have a venom that is to teach you a lesson -- don't come back here and bother us anymore," (Iowa State University entomology professor) Lewis said. "So the venom does have things that cause pain."
Video of the Week: Paper Wasps have tiny brains but big memories
Our Video of the Week dovetails off yesterday's blog post regarding paper wasps' capacity to remember social encounters. A recent study by the University of Michigan found that a paper wasp, specifically the species Polistes fuscatus, can remember an individual wasp counterpart for at least a week.
Here's a video that describes the findings of the study.
Paper Wasps never forget a face
Remembrance Of Tussles Past: Paper Wasps Show Surprisingly Strong Memory For Previous Encounters
ScienceDaily (2008-09-22) -- With brains less than a millionth the size of humans', paper wasps hardly seem like mental giants. But new research shows that these insects can remember individuals for at least a week, even after meeting and interacting with many other wasps in the meantime. ... > read full article
W*H*Y Wednesday: European Paper Wasp
Today begins a new series, "W*H*Y Wednesday", where we focus on one of the 20 species of insects caught in the soon-to-be-released W*H*Y Trap for Wasps, Hornets & Yellowjackets. The conclusion of this series should coincide with the early availability of the W*H*Y Trap at your local retailers.
We start with a transplant from Europe that is making its mark in a growing portion of the U.S.: the European Paper Wasp, Polistes dominulus. This type of paper wasp is considered a non-native or invasive species.
The highlighted portion of this graphic shows where the European Paper Wasp can presently be found in the U.S.:
Appearance: With their yellow and black markings, European Paper Wasps are frequently mistaken for yellowjackets. As with all paper wasps, their waist is very thin, and their hind legs dangle down when they fly. European Paper Wasps are distinguished by their orange antennae.
Habits: European Paper Wasps are active during the day and rest on the nest at night. Adult paper wasps feed on sugar and nectar-like food. Larvae eat protein that is gathered and chewed by adult wasps as they prey on other insects. Colonies last one year, with new queens overwintering to make new nests the following spring.
European Paper Wasp nests: Their nest resembles an upside-down umbrella shape, and the open cells can be seen from below. Queens begin forming nests from wood and live plant fibers in the spring. Most European Paper Wasp nests are a single layer of hexagonal brood cells. These wasps prefer to nest in sheltered locations, but with much greater propensity to use manmade structures than other wasps -- structures such as eaves, decks, patio furniture, outdoor garbage containers, barbecue grills, mailboxes, birdhouses and planter pots.
Nature toward humans: It's unusual for European Paper Wasps to attack unless humans approach too close to a foraging wasp or nest. They can inflict painful stings when they do attack, and like yellowjackets, European Paper Wasps can sting multiple times. It is important to note that because of this species' tendency to nest within manmade structures, European Paper Wasps are more likely to be found in areas of human traffic, increasing the chances of accidentally disturbing a hidden nest.
Compared to other species, European Paper Wasps nest earlier in the spring, in a wider variety of nest sites, most of them sheltered. They are also more aggressive and feed on a wider variety of insects. For these reasons, the European Paper Wasp numbers are growing in the U.S. and out-competing native wasps.
The European Paper Wasp is most common in countries around the Mediterranean. It's also reportedly found in southern Europe, northern Africa, the Middle East and China.