Saturday, July 18, 2015

Wasp Watcher: First Real Try

Wanted: emerald ash borer, or any of several invasive oak borers.
Place: West Middle School.  
Date: July 17th   
Time: 2:00-4:30pm   
Number of wasp colonies: 25-31  (Six had no fresh soil around them)
Haul: one (count 'em ONE beetle, netted along with wasp.  (None found on ground.)

Lessons: It doesn't pay to go early--wasps were still digging out when I arrived, since holes would appear where I had already searched.  Also, the half-dozen wasps I netted were all in the final hour, so they weren't flying much earlier.

I learned in training that netting wasps was fun, and added to the total of beetles collected.  (As well as being more certain, since the beetles wasps carried were certain to be the right sort.)  But most of the beetles would be found on the ground.  This was because wasps were sloppy, or dropped those they decided were not good food for their kids.  (One possible explanation: a beetle dies after capture instead of being merely paralyzed.  The babies like their meat still breathing.)  I seem unable to find beetles on the ground.  (Either that, or my wasps are much more efficient than the run-of-the-mill.  Since these are West Middle School Wasps [rah!] that is probably the explanation.)

 My insect net arrived today from Amazon, so I got going.

 One of my employees: the wasp Cerceris fumipennis aka "smoky-winged beetle bandit".
Note the band on the abdomen, and especially the three yellow spots on the face.

The afternoon wasn't a total loss, since a pair of unfamiliar birds
came to sit on a fence, sing and have their portraits taken.
Eastern kingbird, maybe? but this bird has a yellow beak.

Last night I found an email from our handler, who casually noted that another worker had closed out his site by collecting eighteen beetles yesterday.  18!!!  I am a real slacker!  (Our total target per site is 50; after we collect that many, we leave the females wasps alone to reproduce in peace.)   To make matters worse, the one beetle I netted may have simply been in the way of my net, since it was quite lively--not paralyzed by the wasp's sting.  Well, there's always tomorrow.

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