Thursday, September 11, 2003

Ingenuity vs. the wasps

By David Horst

This is the story of a wife's "I told you so."

A few weeks  ago, my wife spotted, in an oak tree in our llama pasture, a volleyball-sized hornet nest. The gray, papery nest hung entwined on a branch about 5 feet off the ground.

"One of the llamas is going to try to eat a leaf off of that branch and get stung," she said, issuing a call to action.

We had both already been stung this summer when we unwittingly disturbed other nests, so we knew how aggressively baldfaced hornets defend their homes. I'm a firm believer in letting nature take its course so I was hesitant to mess with a hornet nest that hadn't even been noticed up until then.

These inverted-pear-shaped paper nests are impressive works of architecture. They house multiple egg-filled combs and up to thousands of adults. So called for its white face on a black and white body, the baldfaced hornet is actually a wasp in the yellowjacket family. They can sting fast and often.