Friday, 18 April 2008

Half-hitching wasps

If they would let me, I could fill this blog entirely with the adventures of my friends Henrietta and Quentin. Unfortunately, they end most of their tales with the words 'please don't write about this'. But today's chapter from the H & Q story book came with pictures, so they agreed that I could share it with you.

H & Q have European wasps on their property. They want to locate the nest, so they can eradicate the pests, but there's a problem. Their property is about 100 acres, most of which is covered with eucalypt woodland. Locating a wasp nest in that is going to be difficult. So last weekend Henrietta had the idea of waiting for wasps to come to the birdbath and then following them home. Stalking, I think it's called.

But wasps are not only fast fliers, they're also hard to see against the variegated background of trunks and leaves. How could she make them more visible?

By tying coloured cotton around their waists. Obviously.

I understand it's quite tricky to knot a thread around a winged insect that has a dirty great big sting it's not afraid to use.

Of course, it took some experimentation to find the length that gave maximum visibility while still allowing the wasps to fly. Henrietta started with long threads and snipped away until the insects could take off.

And here's where the plan fell apart. Henrietta had caught the wasps when they landed at the birdbath for water, so they hadn't had a chance to drink before they got decorated like maypoles. Their first response was to finish what they started. But their new threads got in the way.

It didn't end well.


Wanderin' Weeta said...

Very funny! I like H&Q's thinking.

Anonymous said...

oh, look, an organically acceptable way to kill wasps!

Why didn't _I_ think of that?

What a complete failure of imagination I am.


Snail said...

WW, I'm impressed at the load the wasps can carry because that's a lot of cotton.

I think H is going to give it another go with short lengths of brightly coloured wool. Rather her than me!

Here in the city, it's easier to locate nests by sight. Then the council deal with them.

Snail said...

Organic but perhaps a little labour-intensive!

Dave Coulter said...

Reminds me of when I was in college and a buddy of mine and I tried to tie a long hair (mine, it was the 70's, lol) around the leg of a stunned housefly walking on the desk.

Didn't work, but we finally noticed the entire lecture hall was watching us!

Island Rambles Blog said...

ahhh...poor little waspies!!!..I like your scientific new way to find their nests and will try that!!!

eped said...

wow, ambitious.

when I was like 14 we used to make "pet flies" too. but with fine thread and around their necks. it actually worked pretty well and once I think we had 7 or 8 of them harnessed up at once.

but with a wasp, I don't think I'd dare.

Snail said...

I will report back on H's success (or lack thereof) with the wool. I suggested radio-tracking (with tags rather than collars, of course) but that wasn't met with great enthusiasm.

Anonymous said...

Reminds me of a story - I knew an old "blackfella" - extraordinary man - used an old Australian Aboriginal trick to find out where native bees (stingless) nested - he caught bees near water and tied very fine plant fibres to them (not sure where) with a little bit of shiny paperbark and followed them home - the nests contained "sugarbag" which was their honey which they cut out of the tree and devour with relish.
I tried it with white cotton once - had to catch several bees (trap several and release the next when you loose the last one on the way.
BUT... I'll be buggered if I'd ever try that trick with Vespula!