Golden Paper Wasps

Paper wasps (genus Polistes) are the most common wasps of the Sonoran desert. They are about one inch long and often brightly colored (see photo gallery). According to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, common paper wasps include the yellow (aka golden) paper wasp, the Navajo paper wasp, which is deep chocolate brown with the end of the abdomen yellowish; and the Arizona paper wasp, which is slightly smaller and more spindle-shaped than the other two and is brownish-red with thin yellow cross bands on the abdomen.

A golden paper wasp (Polistes aurifer) has been inspecting my house recently, but so far, I have not seen any nests. This wasp drinks from my pool. It can land on and walk on the water because it does not break surface tension. These wasps are not usually aggressive except when defending a nest. The nest is built using tree bark and wood fibers mixed with saliva.

ASDM: The paper wasp is a social insect whose life cycle begins as a solitary mated queen. The queen overwinters deep in rock cracks, behind peeling tar paper, or inside enclosures. In spring the queen builds a paper nest suspended from a thin stalk in a protected rock crevice, among thick vegetation such as dead fan palm leaves, or under the overhang of a man-made structure. She constructs a small cluster of paper hexagonal cells and lays an egg in each. The queen then feeds the larvae that hatch from these eggs a diet of caterpillar ‘meat balls.’ When the first young worker wasps emerge from their pupal cells, they assume the tasks of hunting caterpillars, collecting material for making papier-mâché for nest expansion, and collecting water for cooling. The queen then ceases all work except egg laying. By late spring, the colonies have grown to contain 20 to 50 wasps; by late summer as many as 200 wasps may be present. At this time new queens and males are reared. After mating, the new queens imbibe nectar to fatten for the winter. By late fall, the queen mother and workers die, the nest is abandoned, and the next generation of queens goes into hibernation.

Most wasps are specialized hunters that track down their prey using smell and sight combined with knowledge of the habitat, activity periods, and behavior of the prey. A solitary wasp usually subdues its prey with a sting that either kills the prey or paralyzes it briefly or permanently. (Tarantulas stung by tarantula hawks can live completely paralyzed for months.) Social wasps, including paper wasps, never sting their prey. Instead, they use their powerful cutting mandibles to chew the prey into pieces to feed directly to their larvae. The venom of social wasps is used only for defense. (Read more from ASDM)

Most wasps are carnivores that feed on other insects and arthropods. A few species have become herbivores, like bees, and feed on nectar and pollen.

Although wasps are not pleasant to have around, they are beneficial because they are pollinators.

See also: Tarantula Hawks Deliver The Big Sting  


Sycophantic stupid studies on global warming

In the run-up to the big U.N. climate conference in Paris next month where the U.N. will try to extract $100 billion per year from developed countries to mitigate “climate damage” to developing countries, we see hyped stories of global warming. The stories come mainly from bureaucrats and academics whose salaries or grants depend on global warming being dangerous.

Here is a sampling of stories:

Halloween pumpkins cause global warming according to Department of Energy.

The pumpkins end up in landfills and produce methane. Read story

Sharks’ hunting ability destroyed under climate change

Marine ecologists from the University of Adelaide’s Environment Institute report long-term experiments that show warmer waters and ocean acidification will have major detrimental effects on sharks’ ability to meet their energy demands, with the effects likely to cascade through entire ecosystems. Read more. The study was conducted in a tank rather than the open ocean. The study ignores the fact that sharks have been around for about 450 million years and have experienced conditions much warmer than now and atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide 10 times the current concentration.

That’s dangerous because:

Turtle-eating sharks help slow global warming, scientist says

Sharks help to reduce global warming by eating sea turtles and other creatures that consume carbon-rich sea grasses, an Australian scientist said on Tuesday. Read more

Global warming will reduce birth rates

A new study published by the US National Bureau of Economic Research claims that every day over 80F per year dramatically reduces fertility. (see study) If that is true, why then are the highest birth rates in the tropics? (See here)

German government promotes eating for climate, not health

Germany’s Federal Ministry of Environment (BMU) produced a cookbook for climate-friendly eating. Now people should eat in a way that makes the climate healthy and weather better – forget what is really healthy for our bodies. Many experts say the two are not the same. The dietary advice now being promoted by the German BMU is a recipe for malnutrition and poorer health. Read more

Global warming is shortening the tongues of Bumble Bees

A study published in Science claims that global warming is shortening the tongues of Bumble Bees, which may impact the ability of their tongues to reach the bottom of deep tube flowers. Read more Note: Arizona bees have already solved the alleged problem, they simply drill a hole in the base of the flower to suck out the nectar.

And finally, the best-laid plans go awry:

Kangaroo farts:Scientists researching the underlying reason for the low methane content of Kangaroo farts, with a view to reducing cow flatulence, have been disappointed to discover there is nothing special about Kangaroo gut bacteria.” Read more

And the just plain stupid:

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy says, “I think if you go up to anybody in the military who’s been paying attention as well, they will tell you that one of the biggest challenges to national security is the challenge of climate change.”


Related story:

Strange or contrasting global warming stories

Carpenter Bees – black and gold and smelling like roses

There are three species of carpenter bees in Arizona (genus Xylocopa). The females are stout black bees, about one inch long, while the males can be black or golden depending on species. These are the largest native bees in the United States.

Carpenter bees

See more photos: Valley Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa varipuncta) here, Western Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa californica) here and Horsefly-like Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa tabaniformis) here.

The female carpenter bee has a shiny, hairless, black abdomen. Its legs have dense, electrostatically charged hairs for gathering pollen.

Because of its large size, the carpenter bee often cannot fit into smaller flowers to get nectar. In that case, the bee makes an incision at the base of the flower to sip nectar. For larger flowers, such as cactus flowers, the carpenter bee is a valuable pollinator.

After mating, the female prepares for egg laying by using her strong mandibles to chew a half-inch diameter circular tunnel in a dead branch, soft lumber, or yucca or agave stalks. The hole can be up to 10 inches long. She stocks the cavity with nectar and pollen, then deposits an egg in the cavity. The egg chamber is partitioned off from the rest of the cavity with a wall made of saliva and wood debris thereby making separate brood chambers for each egg. She then repeats the process until the hole is filled with eggs. After five to seven weeks, young bees burrow out of the tunnel.

Carpenter bees often reuse their tunnels. Sometimes a single entrance hole will lead to many “galleries” that are used by several females.

According to the US Forest Service: “Carpenter bees are long lived, up to three years and there can be one or two generations per year. Often newly hatched daughters, live together in their nest with their mother. Biologists using observation nests or X-ray imaging techniques have observed returning foragers feeding other nest mates. These observations have led some entomologists to consider carpenter bees primitively social. However, unlike honey bees and bumble bees there are no queen or worker castes, only individual males and females.”

According to DesertUSA:

“In the spring, especially around nesting sites, the male carpenter bee may turn into a perfect showoff, careening and buzzing through the air and bumping clumsily into whatever gets in his way. He wants you to think that he’s aggressive and threatening—a bully. But he’s bluffing. He has no stinger. The female, as you might expect, behaves with far more dignity and restraint. She wants you to think that she’s a lady. But if you intrude into her space, she may attack. She will not be bluffing. She does have a stinger. She can inflict a painful wound.”

The US Forest Service notes that the “showoff” behavior of male bees is part of the mating ritual: “A widespread western US species, Xylocopa varipuncta, has an unusual mating system. Its green-eyed golden males have huge perfume glands in their thoraces. Territorial males take up positions in non-flowering plants near other males. As a group they actively release their rose-scented blend of chemicals. Females are attracted from downwind and choose a male with which to mate.”

DesertUSA goes on to note: “The damage done by carpenter bees to residence in a wooden structure is usually quite superficial. However, given enough time and enough seasons spent in the nest, the Carpenter Bee can chew a simple, but prolific tunnel & gallery network through a house’s timbers. Therefore, it is important to exterminate carpenter bees that have infested your home.”

The carpenter bee seems to be one of the primary native bees that pollinate agricultural crops.

For more general information about bees, see my article: Desert Bees