Video of the Week: Two Aerial Yellowjacket nests
Since we discussed the Aerial Yellowjacket a couple days ago, our featured video this week is one of our own -- showing two different and very active nests built by this species of yellowjacket.
File this video under "Pest horror stories", because I would be horrified if I found one of these on the side of my house!
W*H*Y Wednesday: Aerial Yellowjackets
Like most yellowjacket species, Aerial Yellowjackets have the typical stout bodies with yellow and black coloration. They have been observed by our RESCUE!® field scientists as having even more plump abdomens than what is common to yellowjackets. This species measures about a half inch long.
Aerial Yellowjackets are found in the West, Upper Midwest and Northeast United States, as illustrated in the highlighted portion of the map below:
Aerial Yellowjackets are not typically "picnic pests", but they may be attracted to sugary foods such as fruit and soft drinks. They also have been known to follow humans around, though not with the intent to sting. This species will forage for only live prey such as grasshoppers, leafhoppers, tree crickets, flies and spiders.
Aerial Yellowjacket nests are usually constructed above ground. They are commonly found on structures such as houses, sheds and garages, and also in the tops of trees. Their nests look similar to the nests of Bald-faced Hornets.
We have two photos of Aerial Yellowjacket nests which we personally encountered about six years ago. The first one was built inside the wall void of a pool house and spilled out as it grew late in the season:
And this one was under the eave of a two-story residence:
Stings are most common when Aerial Yellowjackets build nests on human structures (as above), or when hidden nests are accidentally disturbed.
Good news for those who have this species in their backyard: the new W*H*Y Trap for Wasps, Hornets & Yellowjackets will catch Aerial Yellowjackets!
Video of the Week: Giant European Hornet nest
The creator of this week's featured video found a massive nest in his garage. He identified it as a yellowjacket nest, but more than likely it's the nest of the European Hornet.
Whatever it is, it's enough to make your skin crawl. Extra points for the night-vision segment and creepy sound effects!
W*H*Y Wednesday: European Hornet
Today's featured species is Vespa crabro, known commonly as the European Hornet -- or sometimes as a Giant Hornet.
European Hornets are easily recognized by their large size and black, yellow and rusty red coloration. About an inch long with a plump body shape, the European Hornet can appear rather intimidating. Their heads are yellow and red and thorax is black with red markings. The abdomen starts out red and continues with bands of yellow and black.
The European Hornet is found in the U.S. mainly East of the Mississippi and also in Minnesota, as illustrated in the highlighted portion of the map below.
Although typically active during the daytime, European Hornet workers may fly at night in humid, windless conditions and are attracted to external lighting and windowpanes. European Hornets have an exceptionally long seasonal cycle, reproducing from late August through November. Workers prey on a variety of insects -- including grasshoppers, flies, honeybees and yellowjackets -- to feed their larvae. Hornets can also "girdle" a variety of trees for sap, including ash, lilac, horse chestnut, dogwood, dahlia, rhododendron, boxwood and birch. This often results in the death of the tree.
European Hornet nests are typically built in hollow trees, but can also be found in barns, sheds, attics and wall voids in buildings. Frequently, the nests are built in the openings of protected cavities. Nests built in wall voids can emit a stench. Mature nests usually have 300-500 workers, but they sometimes can number up to 1,000. Colonies last for one year and only the queen survives the winter.
Nature toward humans: European Hornets are not typically aggressive unless handled, or the colony is threatened. Though the European Hornet prefers forested areas to urban settings, many suburban homes in the U.S. are located near these wooded habitats, which increases the likelihood of human contact.
Good news for those who have this species in their backyard: The new W*H*Y Trap for Wasps, Hornets & Yellowjackets will catch European Hornets!
And if you have encountered European Hornets, we want to hear from you -- either with a comment here on our blog, or by sharing your story on our web site.
Bugs beware! Sterling has chemistry with new scientist
As of last week, we have a new scientist in our insect research lab. Here's the press release:
SPOKANE, WA, November 17, 2008 -- Sterling International, manufacturer of RESCUE!® Pest Control Products, welcomed new scientist Dr. Guiji Zhou this week to the company's Research and Development Department, strengthening its world-class insect research lab.
Dr. Zhou brings expertise in analytical and organic chemistry, having previously worked at the Shanghai Institute of Organic Chemistry at the Chinese Academy of Sciences. With the addition of Dr. Zhou, Sterling employs eight scientists, including three Ph.D.s, who are experts in developing advanced pest control technology.
RESCUE!® products use scented attractants to lure pest insects into traps, where they die naturally without chemical killing agents. Dr. Zhou's responsibilities will include identifying and creating these attractants, and the technology that dispenses the scents.
The scientists at Sterling are constantly searching for new ways to efficiently and safely control pests. "Research and Development is a collaborative endeavor; the more great minds the better," said Rod Schneidmiller, founder and president of Sterling International.
Sterling's most recent R&D breakthrough is the new W*H*Y Trap for Wasps, Hornets & Yellowjackets, which will be on retail shelves in 2009. The Research & Development Team is also working on a portable mosquito repellent device under a $730,000 grant from the United States Department of Defense.
According to Schneidmiller, the future of Sterling is innovation and "having a world-class Research and Development department just makes that future brighter."
Paper wasps communicate Buddhist message?
If people can see the Virgin Mary in a grilled cheese sandwich, then I suppose it shouldn't be surprising that some Buddhists in Rochester, Minnesota believe that paper wasps have built a nest in the shape of a sitting Buddha in a sheltered eave on the outside of a temple.
A monk at the temple suggested that the wasps are trying to communicate a Buddhist message of peace and serenity. Guess he's never been stung by a wasp before.
In which I get stung by a yellowjacket hiding in my house slipper.
We interrupt this regularly scheduled "Video of the Week" post to bring you a personal story from the writer of this blog.
This yellowjacket and I had already met yesterday morning. She was flying lethargically around my bedroom, looking for a place to hibernate for the winter. Before I could find a magazine to whack her with, she disappeared behind a mirror. Which allowed her to live another day... and go to sleep in my house slipper.
I trapped her in a "catch jar" with a mesh top and brought her in to our lab, where our scientists identified her as a Vespula vulgaris, or Common Yellowjacket.
Being stung actually might have saved me from more problems down the road. Common Yellowjackets are known to nest in between the walls of houses. If I had not found this queen, she could have started a nest in my attic next spring!
She now awaits her fate in our insect research lab.
Giant sucking sound
No, it's not U.S. jobs heading south to Mexico. It's a "Wasp Sucking Machine" devised by an individual annoyed by yellowjackets disturbing his lunchtime on a daily basis. He discovered they were entering and exiting through a crevice in the building where he worked. Not content with using a Shop-Vac to remove them, he put together a contraption with a high-powered motor that sucked them out through a hose and into a glass-topped box to show off the catch.
Nine hours of running the machine netted thousands of yellowjackets in the box. Read more and see the photos here.
W*H*Y Wednesday: The Bald-faced Hornet
Today's featured insect is the big, bad, bold Bald-faced Hornet.
First off, we will note that the Bald-faced Hornet is not a true hornet, but rather is closely related to the genus Vespula (yellowjackets).
Bald-faced Hornets are named for their white face coloration. On the rest of their bodies, they are mostly black with white markings on the thorax and lower half of the abdomen. Compared to yellowjackets, they are quite large and plump, at 3/4 inch long.
For some amazing close-up photos showing the coloration more clearly, follow this link.
Bald-faced Hornets are common to both wooded and urban areas. They typically only forage for live prey but occasionally will scavenge for sugars. This species primarily preys on flies and other yellowjackets for protein... which is why we sometimes see them hanging around our RESCUE! Fly Trap or Disposable Yellowjacket Trap.
Bald-faced Hornets are found in many places throughout the U.S., as illustrated in the highlighted portion of this map:
Bald-faced Hornets build nests that are at least the size of a basketball, and sometimes larger. The nests are grayish and round or pear-shaped, typically in higher aerial locations such as in trees or on buildings. Bald-faced Hornet nests are much stronger, flexible, and resistant to water damage than the nests of other species. The thick paper of the nest conceals two to six horizontally arranged combs. Peak nest populations are 400 or more workers.
Use caution when you see one of these. Bald-faced Hornets can be extremely aggressive when the nest is disturbed, and it is reported that they will go for the facial area when they attack humans.
Here's a video we shot two years ago of a Bald-faced Hornet nest hidden in some shrubbery next to a garbage container:
Good news if you have Bald-faced Hornets in your backyard: The W*H*Y Trap for Wasps, Hornets & Yellowjackets will catch them!
WHY-vangelist in Texas inundated with paper wasps
Brenda in West Texas is anxious to try out the new W*H*Y Trap for Wasps, Hornets & Yellowjackets early next year. She just wrote to us and told us her situation:
"We live in West Texas and are inundated with paper wasps. When I walk out the front door, I take a fly swatter with me so I can fight my way off of the porch. In the summer, they dive bomb us when we are in the pool. We go through cases and cases of Wasp spray each summer. Those darn things can get inside the home through the smallest crevice and yesterday we had 25 in our living room when we returned home. Needless to say, we are very anxious to purchase a case of WHY traps and have them out in early spring so we can catch the queens."
And you can see where other WHY-vangelists are located and what they have said here.
Video of the Week: Paper Wasp nest under construction
It's rather fascinating to watch a wasp, hornet or yellowjacket nest being built, and we've found a number of videos on YouTube that show the building process. The person who filmed today's featured video had an excellent vantage point right outside his living room window, so you can get a good look at the unique rust/gold/black coloration and thin, segmented body of the Polistes fuscatus Paper Wasps that are constructing the nest.
W*H*Y Wednesday: The Red Wasp, Part 2
Yes, we missed our post yesterday and it's actually Thursday, but we like alliteration here at the BugBlog.
Like the P. carolina Red Wasp, P. Perplexus is known for its overall ferruginous (rusty red) coloration, but with more black markings on the thorax. At nearly 1 inch in length, it's large in comparison to other Paper Wasps.
As for where P. perplexus is found, I can't resist linking it to the recent election. This Red Wasp is found in many of the Southeastern "Red" states that John McCain won... plus the surrounding "Blue" states of Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Illinois... okay, so it's not a perfect analogy. Here's the map with the highlighted Red Wasp states:
Habits: Red Wasp adult workers will 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 Wasps create nests from chewed-up wood and live plant fibers. Their nests are large compared to other Paper Wasps, resembling an upside-down umbrella with exposed octagonal cells. P. perplexus is more likely to nest in sheltered natural settings such as hollow trees and wooden structures. These Red Wasps are also known to build nests inside warehouses.
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.
Folks in Tampa, FL are buzzing...
The link from Fox 13 in Tampa contains video that is worth watching.
The yellowjackets got a little creative in building,as the nest has unusual "tendrils" growing out from it.
Across the pond, folks in Scotland also had a recent yellowjacket wasp scare. A museum in Glasgow, the People's Palace, had to close temporarily because of a wasp nest on the top floor which caused two staffers to be stung.