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Plants of the Western Slope July 6, 2016

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Wasps

There are, or were, three wasp nests along the front eaves of our home. Or rather, they were being built. So I called John Vigil, our excellent handyman. He came. The nests are gone, and I am relieved. But he got stung. I remember a childhood fear.

I was a gullible little kid!

My cousin Marie, who lived in Denver, came to visit in the summer. If there was trouble, Marie would find it! On a summer's day as we were playing, she pointed to a wasp nest along the back eave of the house. She found a stick, and handing it to me, she said, "Let's see if WE can knock it down!" So I tried.

I do remember stumbling and falling down, but that's about all I remember. That's probably best.

So now, after the event here at home, I'm brave enough to check wasps online. More information than I would ever want! But it is fascinating. From the National Geographic website, I found that there are 30,000 species! They come in many colors, but the most common dressed in yellow and brown belong to the "social" group of about 1,000 species and includes the formidable yellow jackets and hornets. I'm thinking: 30,000 species and only 1,000 in the social group. So there would be 29,000 solitary, non-stinging varieties? But the solitary ones (29,000) use their stingers as a hunting tool.

According to the website, each social colony is started fresh each season by a fertile queen who overwinters in some warm spot and emerges to rear a starter brood of females who build the nest as the queen continues to lay eggs, which may reach 5,000 individuals. All, including the queen, die at the season's end. Then the next season begins with a "hibernating" fertile queen.

But nearly every pest insect is preyed upon by some wasp species as food or as a host for the wasp's parasitic larvae. Wasps are so adept at controlling pest populations that they are now regularly deployed by the agricultural industry. I didn''t know that!

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Surface Creek
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Evelyn Horn, Plants of the Western Slope
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