Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Yellow Jacket Wasp

Lately, the cat has been on a roll. In one week, he captured and killed four deer mice that were either brown or gray and proudly left them on the rug. The cat bringing me mice he hunted, it's almost better than a boyfriend bringing flowers. What a surprise! Thank you, cat! Of course I gave the dead mice the royal flush down the toilette, and then, for all of his good mouse hunting, the cat gets a kitty treat. I don't condone killing anything, but the mice populations have been out of control here, and mice carry Hanta Virus which causes Hanta Virus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS) that is known to be fatal. Hanta Virus is real common in the four corners area. Plague is rare, but does come back as mice carry plague. Mice carry all kinds of bad illnesses for humans so I think, being a great mouser, the cat had a job well done.

A few days ago, the cat was meowing loudly so I ran to the door to check on him. He was holding a yellow jacket wasp down over the air conditioning vent. He blocked the wasp. I looked down and saw it. At first I thought maybe the cat was stung? The yellow jacket wasp had a missing barb. I lifted the cat and checked him, but he was not in any pain. A sting from a yellow jacket would be extremely painful. The cat was not stung.

I wondered if the yellow jacket had stung something else and was waiting to die? It's Fall now, and many of the insects that thrived in the summertime were dying off. I was looking. Maybe he had one of those paper nests somewhere nearby. I looked around the vent and in the concrete, but there was not any paper nest. The little yellow jacket wasp must be far from home and dying. The cat was fixated on the bug, maybe the cat would eat the wasp the way he ate flies and crickets. The cat kept trying to paw the wasp out of curiosity.

The queens have bi-lateral black dots on their thorax. This yellow jacket is a male because the dots have been fused into long black waves on the thorax. The yellow jacket is smaller than a queen. Queen wasps are larger and have thicker wings. This is a worker that is at the end of life.

What I think happened is that the male wasps mate and die around Fall - about right now. Maybe he mated with a queen wasp and was in the process of death. It's the short life-cycle of the wasps. He is dying. New queens will live a full year and nest for the winter, and have new wasp larvae in the Spring, and the cycle repeats. This little yellow jacket was on his way out.

When I was little, I had no allergies to bees. I used to catch honey bees and wasps by their wings. If you get their wings very closely, it's harder for them to sting. Every now and then I would get stung and curse. When I was a child, I liked playing with insects. I had grasshoppers, ants, and flies and bees. I would play with them. I would catch them and put them in a glass bottle, and watch them for the day, and then let them go later on. I was kind of curious like the cat. I liked catching preying mantis, walking sticks and potato bugs. I would show everyone my treasures. I've grown up since then. I still like sharing. I still consider bugs to be my little treasures.

Here are some pictures of our wasp friend. Things are changing. He's had his time. I brought the cat in the house and let the little bugger die in peace. I guess once he got free of the cat, he probably flew away some place else and died. Next Spring I'll see all the new wasps that fly around, maybe one of the wasp's sons, it won't be long and there will be another year to sip flower nectar. I hope these pictures make my little wasp friend blogger famous so people never forget nature is just amazing.


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