Monday, July 20, 2015

Wasp watcher: Finally, success

Long and effort under a scorching sun yielded me a few more beetles at another site yesterday.  [See previous two posts for context]  But with a "quota" of fifty beetles to collect at each of three different sites before mid-August, I was getting pretty bummed.  If our organizers thought that was doable, then I must be one spectacularly incompetent Wasp Watcher!  I was especially put out that I couldn't see any discarded beetles on the ground.  (The entomologist called the wasps "messy eaters," and assured us we would get most of our beetles by cleaning up after them.)

A wasp stares back at me from inside her burrow.  the three spots on her face are additional confirmation of her identity: Cerceris fumipennis.

Today I decided to visit my third site: the baseball fields by Houghton's Pond.  The afternoon began as it often has with me trudging around the field marking the modest number of scattered burrows.  After I'd located most of these on the first field, I decided to wander over to the other, hoping for better.  For once I wasn't disappointed: I counted over eighty burrows before I'd finished.  Early in the count, I spotted something unusual; kneeling, I could hardly believe my eyes--a single burrow littered with discarded beetles!  I collected twelve in just a few minutes.  Their appearance was unmistakable: if they had been present in my other sites I could not have missed them.  I went on at that field to pick up two more from the ground, and netted four in the air.

At the rate the wasp going, she'll never get her larder stocked.  No matter how much of a survivor she is, if she doesn't reproduce successfully, her genes are pruned from the tree of life just as if she'd never hatched at all.  Such is the harsh reality of natural selection.

Though my luck didn't hold at other sites that day, I was now pretty confident I knew my business; if I didn't find beetles at a site, there probably weren't many there to find.

I'll worry no further about quotas.  I'll do my job and let whatever happens happen.

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