|The fallen 12" wide hornet's nest showing some of its internal structure|
When she gave me the nest, she asked me a few questions while we both marveled at its craftsmanship. There are several species of wasps referred to as hornets. They build paper nests up on trees using chewed pieces of vegetable material that hardens and becomes the consistency of paper.
|The nest's envelope and cells are paper made of wood fibers mixed with wasp's saliva and applied in layers. The different colors show the variety of sources used in the construction|
Hornet's stings can be very painful and they are more likely to attack when you happen to be close to their nests; that is where the expressions "mad as a hornet" and "hornet's nest" come from. Also, they can make nuisances of themselves, especially in the fall when they boldly approach any food available at picnics. Most people don't want to know anything beyond that; hornets are to be feared and avoided. An exterminator is the first thing that they think of when finding a nest in their properties.
|Yellowjacket on Queen Anne's lace|
|An adult resident hornet. This one can't sting because it is a male|
Caterpillars also figure prominently in their diet; once again they attack a wide range of species from butterflies to moths. Tent caterpillars are among the undesirable pests that they prey on; they may also feed their babies on Luna moths or painted ladies.
They have other connections with the rest of the living world. Some birds, such as the red eyed vireo use paper fragments from abandoned wasps nests to insulate and decorate their nests. Finally, hornets themselves are part of the food chain, providing nutrition to a number of other creatures, birds such as fly catchers, toads, bats, raccoons, etc. They are part of the web of life, linked to the plants they pollinate, the prey species they control and the species that they nourish.
My friend was wise in letting the wasp nest follow its natural course, rather than calling an exterminator. The busy hornets took care of countless insects all through the summer.
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© Beatriz Moisset. 2013