This 42-cm tall wasp nest was found in a Willow Point yard.

ISLAND WILD: Prolific wasp colony occupied papery nest

Pop quiz: What’s made of paper, looks like an overstuffed grey football, and strikes fear into the heart of most human beings?

Pop quiz: What’s made of paper, looks like an overstuffed grey football, and strikes fear into the heart of most human beings?

In autumn, when falling leaves unveil their presence, the answer is…a wasp nest. Doug and Kathryn Mace of Campbell River found such a nest (thankfully vacant) last week in their birch tree. Measuring 42 cm high, the nest is larger than most found in this area.

Dr. Rob Cannings, Curator of Entomology at Victoria’s Royal British Columbia Museum, says the nest was likely made by one of two species: Bald-faced Hornet (Dolichovespula maculate) or Aerial Yellowjacket (D. arenaria).

The Bald-faced Hornet (not native to North America) is not a true hornet but rather a big, black and white yellowjacket.

Aerial Yellowjackets are a smaller (black and yellow) species that nest in exposed places (such as tree branches or the outside eaves of buildings), thus “aerial.”

Some wasp species build nests underground. One September day, while picking blackberries, I ventured too close to a subterranean wasp nest, only to be stung repeatedly by the nasty little vipers.

Usually, wasps are active long into autumn, and Dr. Cannings expressed surprise that this colony had died out so early during this year’s fair-weather fall. The Mace’s rather large colony may have had over 300 workers.

In the remarkable nest-building process, female worker wasps collect wood bits and chew them into a pulp, mixed with their own saliva. The workers add the resulting pulp to the structure, spreading and flattening it with their legs and mandibles. The outer paper cover provides insulation and temperature control for the multiple combs (containing cells) within.

Yellowjacket colonies last only one season; they do not overwinter, and the nest is never re-used. The inseminated queens leave the nest and seek out loose tree bark or other winter shelter.

Some may wonder how a paper wasp nest withstands the island’s torrential rains. Dr. Cannings says there is probably a chemical in the wasp saliva that makes the material impervious to water.

Teach children never to throw objects at wasp nests, an action sure to provoke the insects to attack.

E-mail Christine at: wildernesswest@shaw.ca.

Just Posted

Confusion in Campbell River on first day of cannabis legalization

Some users puzzled as dispensaries close just before pot becomes legal across Canada

Aquaman star spotted around Campbell River as production ramps up on See

Jason Momoa, best known for his role in Game of Thrones, is in town to film television series

VIDEO: This is what buying legal pot in B.C. looks like

Take a look inside B.C.’s first and only legal pot shop located in Kamloops

Man injured in Vancouver Island racetrack accident meets, holds son for first time

Kayden was born the day after Jonathan was crushed by car at speedway

Campbell River school enrolment up over projections

End of September count finds 65 more students in the system

Mellow opening to B.C.’s only legal pot shop

About five people lined up early for the opening of the BC Cannabis Store in Kamloops.

Jagmeet Singh says marijuana pardons are not enough

Trudeau government will streamline pardon process for Canadians convicted of simple possession of marijuana in the past

Caregivers banned from smoking, growing cannabis around children-in-care: MCFD

Ministry has limited cannabis use for caregivers, stating it may “pose a risk to children and youth.”

Cheaper strains sell out within minutes on online BC Cannabis Store

Province says new strains will become available in the coming months

Only 40% of B.C. car dealerships have electric cars available: report

Researchers found buyers frustrated at the lack of options

VIDEO: Millionaire Lottery returns to give back and win big

Since 1996, Millionaire Lottery has raised $52 million for the VGH+UBC Hospital Foundation

Test case challenges a politician’s right to block people from Twitter account

3 people say Watson infringed their constitutional right to freedom of expression by blocking them

‘A little odd’ B.C.’s biggest city celebrates cannabis without a legal store

On the streets of downtown Vancouver, notably the Wild West of illegal marijuana, not a single legal store opened Wednesday, making for a rather anticlimatic kick-off

Most Read