Notes from underground

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Archive for the tag “wasps”

Bees, wasps and hornets

On the alt.usage.english newsgroup we’ve been having a discussion on bees, wasps and hornets, and it seems that the names of these insects vary a great deal from country to country.

In my youth I used to be terrified of insects like the one in the picture on the right, which used to come buzzing into our classroom during morning lessons and distract us from anything our teachers were saying.

When I was at Mountain Lodge School in Magaliesberg we used to call them “hornets”, but I later heard they were called “mason wasps”. This picture comes from an American web page here, where they are called “mud daubers”.

I’ve looked for pictures of mason wasps on the web, and they don’t look much like the insect in the picture. As far as I can judge the picture shows the insect pretty much life size, at least for the ones we have around here.

They seem to be solitary insects — unlike common South African wasps, they don’t live in colonies. They come into our house about November-February, and buzz around looking for places to build their nests. And if not chased out, one will come across the nest, weeks, months or sometimes years later — in a fold in a curtain, or when pulling a book off a bookshelf. Their nests, as the American name implies, are made of mud.

What I would like to know is what they are called in South Africa. If they are not hornets, and not mason wasps, then what are they?

I’ve never been stung by one, and am not as scared of them was I was when I was 9-10 years old, though I still discourage them from nesting in the house because I don’t like finding books whose pages are glued together with a mud construction.

Alien wasps abduct ants

Now here’s an alien abduction story with a difference — Alien Wasps Abduct, Drop Ants to Get Food:

Looking for a way to banish ants from your picnic? According to a new study, wasps have developed a unique method for dealing with the pests: airlifting them away from the food.

In an experiment done with wild insects, scientists in New Zealand recently witnessed the common wasp, an alien invader to the island country, competing for food with the native ant species Prolasius advenus.

When a wasp approached a mound of food swarming with ants, the wasp would pluck an ant from the pile, fly a ways off, and drop the still-living insect from its jaws.

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