Friday, October 11, 2019

Wasps - the end is near

Almost at the end of the wasp season now. but there are still a few lethargic common wasps Vespula vulgaris in the garden, feeding on rotting fallen fruit. After cold nights they move very slowly, so it's easy to get close to them and get a good view of those powerful jaws. All season long they've been chewing wood to make paper for their nests, then catching other insects to feed their brood. Now, in their final days, they search for anything sweet to boost their flagging energy levels.

A few are feeding on the last of the late-season red-hot pokers Kniphofia sp. These popular garden flowers grow wild in South Africa, where they are pollinated by sunbirds that come to feed on the large volumes of nectar they secrete. The nectar trickles downwards in the dangling, tubular flowers and the wasps force their way in, so they often become covered in the sticky secretion and need to spend a lot of time cleaning their antennae afterwards.

Click here for pictures of the remarkable structure of a wasp nest - a marvel of paper engineering.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Our two year-old granddaughter's favourite spider

Our two year-old grand daughter was fascinated by this magnificent house spider Tegenaria domestica that's living it its web in a corner of  a window in our house.

It's not often that you get this unusual underside view of the body, revealing the prey's-eye view of the jaws, and all the leg joints. Usually you just see them dashing across the floor late in the evening, or trapped in the bath when they search for a drink from a dripping tap.

Though large, they are harmless and do a very good job of catching those annoying flies that find their way into the house in autumn. These spiders in turn are preyed upon by cellar spiders (daddy-long-legs spiders) and, since there are two of these living behind the settee, this house spider's days may be numbered.