Sunday, August 7, 2011

Wasps and Figwort


Somewhere in our garden - or close by - there must be a nest of these tree wasps Vespula sylvestris because they are all over the garden at the moment.

When their breeding season comes to an end the wasps concentrate of feeding themselves with anything sweet that they can find, instead of catching insects to feed the brood - and that's when they become a nuisance, entering kitchens to satisfy their craving for sweet food.

Sometimes they just seem to sit around and do nothing and that's when they are at their most menacing, because it's easy to accidentally grab one when you're weeding the garden - as I know to my cost. At least when they are flying they buzz and you can hear them coming.



Fortunately there some plants in the bog garden that divert their attention. They find figwort Scrophularia nodosa absolutely irresistible .... although they do struggle a bit to reach the nectar in the flowers .....

In order to force their heads into the flowers they have to curl their tail right underneath .....


.... and hug the flowers, but once they get a good grip on the flower they can force their wedge-shaped heads in, picking up pollen and transferring it to other flowers as they feed. I've spent quite a while watching them and, in comparison with bees, they are unmethodical flower visitors. Bees will usually move from one flower to the next-nearest one, whereas the wasps seem to forage around at random, often coming back to the same flower several times within a few minutes.  

18 comments:

  1. Like all insects they have a certain beauty. I have been stung twice this year and their silly season is only just beginning.
    Grand images as usual.

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  2. I have had quite a few wasps in the kitchen recently. All very small, probably a third of the size of a common wasp. Not seen such small ones before.

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  3. Great series of photos Phil. For the last few years we've had a colourful ribbon curtain hung at the back door which dissuades some flying insects from entering.

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  4. Those first two shots look quite menacing Phil.

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  5. Hi Adrian, My worst experience with a wasp was when a queen wasp crawled into the finger of my gardening gloves to hibernate ... and I woke her up

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  6. Hello John, we haven't had too many in the house yet but I've got a bumper plum crop that will be ripening soon and I'm sure they'll be after that..

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  7. Hi Rob, I think we need to do something like that during the hot weather...

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  8. Pretty menacing Keith, but less so that the bee-killer that Rob has posted at http://thelivingisle.blogspot.com/search/label/Bee%20Killer%20Wasp

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  9. Indeed Tim, you're right...........must get myself an up-to-date field guide!

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  10. Oooo yes, the first two photos are weird and wonderful. The wasp has a 'face' with 'eyes'... and it's looking right at me! :O) Last Summer, I was picking up fallen fuchsia flowers from the patio, innocently disturbed a wasp and was stung.

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  11. Wonderful set of photos. From photos 1 and 2 - look at that face! Look at that hair!

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  12. I never realised how hairy wasps were until I started photographing them, swanscot..

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  13. Hi Lesley, when you look at them head-on the head looks even larger and more menacing because the facial pattern seems to match the black and yellow markings on the thorax behind the head....

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  14. I'm with the rest of the herd - these are some pretty impressive photos!

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  15. Thanks Ellen, our plum crop is about to ripen so I guess we'll be in direct competition with the wasps............

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  16. Hi Phil,

    Would you mind me using one of your wasp/figwort photos (credited to either you or this blog) in a slide show to accompany a talk about insect pollinators? No worries if you prefer not! With best wishes, Brigit

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    1. Hi Brigit, You are most welcome to - delight if they can be of use to you. Thank you for the kind tweet about my blog. kind regards, Phil

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