OBSERVING SOCIAL WASPS AND THEIR WAYS SAFELY:
1. When you find a nest you should approach it very slowly and quietly so you won't attract the insects' attention toward you.
2. You should stay at a reasonable or safe distance from the nest. Certain species of wasps do not allow you to move in very closely to observe them.
3. Never stand in line of flying traffic which is going to and from the nest. If you do, you will probably get hit by a wasp and get stung.
4. Do not touch or move objects which a wasp nest is attached to. Vibrations can and will stir up a colony of these stinging insects.
5. Never wear cologne or perfume near any nests. These stinging insects are attracted to the scent.
6. Do not wear bright, flowery clothes. Wasps and hornets are attracted to flower prints. Wearing black clothes near a nest is a major danger because this color tends to irritate these insects. White is the best color to wear since it lowers the chances of being attacked.
7. Be aware of where the wasps are at all times.
8. When watching social wasps you might want to take a notepad and a pen with you so you can jot down what you observe for future reference.
9. Don't forget to bring a camera and some film with you.
*Note: A slow, meandering flight near or around you means that a wasp is just satisfying its curiosity towards you (don't be alarmed). A fast beeline towards you means that you are in big trouble! Also, DO NOT panic if you notice a wasp flying near you or if one lands on you. Swatting at it will cause the insect to sting you. Instead, stand still if a wasp lands on you and then lightly brush it off or walk slowly away from the area if a wasp is flying near you. There have been plenty of times when wasps were flying around me or they have actually landed on me and I did not get stung at all. Just remember that wasps are not out to get people!
If you are unlucky enough to experience a mass attack, RUN!!! Get far away from the area as quickly as possible. I am speaking from painful personal experience.
PHOTOGRAPHING SOCIAL WASPS AND THEIR NESTS:
1. The best camera to use is a 35mm SLR camera equipped with a telephoto zoom/macro lens so you can stand at a considerable distance from an active nest and still be able to take close-up shots of the wasps and the nest itself.
2. A tripod is very important to have because it allows you to keep the camera steady while you are taking pictures.
3. Lighting is also very important. Both natural light and flashes can be used.
4. Shoot pictures with various angles of your subjects.
5. Taking photography classes would definitely help you in shooting better pictures in different kinds of situations.
FINDING THEIR NESTS:
1. You can find nests just about anywhere. You can find them in vegetation, underground, buildings, and houses (just to name a few places).
2. You can usually spot a hornet nest attached to the limb of a tree fairly easily during the late fall or early winter because there are no leaves on most of the trees to camouflage the nests which you find. During the summer it is sometimes difficult to find a nest, even a huge one, because the colors in the nest help it to blend in with its surroundings. Nests can vary from color to color. From a distance a hornet nest looks grey, but closer observation will reveal there is a wide variety of bright colors in the outside wall of the nest. Once, I found one which was streaked with bands of pink. I now have a nest which has a very beautiful copper color. These bright colors result from gathering wood fiber on painted fences and buildings. Some colors in the nest also result from the different kinds of wood used in the nest construction.
3. You can find the nests of Polistine wasps fairly easily because they are usually found around or on human habitats. Look for Polistine nests beneath the eaves and gables of houses and on window frames and doorways. You can also find their nests in trees and bushes. If you spot a Polistine nest it will look like one of the combs which you find inside a hornet nest. A constant stream of wasps coming out of a hole in the ground means that you found a yellowjacket nest.
4. Here is an easy way to find a wasp nest: Pay special attention to an area where you see wasps flying to and from most frequently. Try to follow their flight paths back to their nest. This method does not work 100% of the time though.
RELOCATING ACTIVE NESTS:
I would like to gratefully acknowledge Evan Hall for allowing me to use this information on my website.
"This works best with larger colonies,( mid-summer when hornet nest has 30+ workers, Paper wasps 5+ ). I have full bee-keeping equipment ( veil, gloves, jumpsuit etc. ). Locate hornet nest, plan on how to remove. I usually clear an area around the nest so I can get a clear shot at slipping a heavy clear plastic bag over the nest. Keep a portion of the branch the nest is attached to, so that you can tie to the branch at the new location. Let the wasps calm down ( from clearing the branches and leaves from around the nest ) then tape a cotton ball over the entrance hole just prior to bagging the nest and clipping the branch. This traps the majority of hornets in the nest. This is a tricky maneuver with gloves on, you could actually skip this and just try slipping the bag over the nest and closing it at fast as possible. You will lose some of the workers but as long as you capture 50% or more your nest will have a good chance of surviving at its new location. This is all pretty standard fare up till now. The key is the chilling process. I take the nest as quickly as possible and put it in the freezer to chill the wasps into dormancy. You must be very careful to chill them to the point where they can barely move, ( but not kill them, obviously ). You must check them every few minutes, once you notice they are slowing down, ( You want them as sluggish as possible ), you can observe their actions. I noticed when they are moving very sluggishly they are ready to transplant to the new location. The Hornet adults usually seek shelter inside the nest from the cold. You then have a 10-15 minute window of opportunity to dash out and install the nest in the new location. Prior preparation is a must. I use wire to wrap the branch with the nest to the tree/bush branch in the new location, then remove the plastic bag. The best time to do the relocation is near dusk. The Hornets will usually stay in the nest for the night and are much less likely to fly away and not return. If all goes well the hornets will take up residence in the new location and in a couple of days it will be like nothing ever happened. I have had great success with this technique and have moved a dozen nests to my backyard over the years with only one less than perfect result. It is great to be able to walk out in your backyard and observe a nest in a convenient location ( from a lawn chair, with a cold soda ). The nest grows and turns out very natural. The paper wasp transplants work much the same way. I have found it easier to use simple nesting boxes which I install at locations the wasps naturally like. They readily use these boxes and build nests. When the nests are well established I then move the boxes to my window so I can see into the interior. When you move Polistes you must keep them in the nesting boxes for a full day and a night. I block off the entrance to the box till early the next morning at which point I remove the obstructions and let the wasps out. If you wait 24 hours+ the adults have a much better chance at staying with the nest. This is very important if you move only a short distance like I do most of the time. I now have a Polistes nesting box on my shed window which the wasps have returned to this year."
OBTAINING ABANDONED NESTS:
1. The best time to go wasp nest hunting is during the late fall or early winter after freezing temperatures have set in. Do you remember what my introduction said? Wasps in the United States abandon their nests and die when winter comes. So, this makes it safe to collect them.
2. These are some of the tools which you might want to use for collecting nests: tree trimmer, ladder, saw, shovel, spatula, bags, and net.
3. If the nest which you want is attached to a tree branch, you can climb the tree. Use a ladder if you would rather not climb it. Use a saw to cut off the branch which the nest is attached to. Either have a good hold on the branch before it falls and destoys the nest or let somebody else catch it with a large net equipped with a long handle. This should not damage the nest. Another option is to have two to four people, holding an outstretched blanket, stand beneath the area where the nest will fall and catch it in that manner. If you do not want to climb the tree to get the nest, you might be able to use a tree trimmer (a long tool which is usually used to cut tree limbs).
4. Some nests are built onto a house or other building. You can obtain one of these with the least damage by carefully scraping it off the building, using a large metal spatula. You will need to insert the edge of the spatula in between the nest structure and the building.
5. If you want to get an underground nest, you will have to dig it up very carefully with a shovel. You have to know approximately where to dig so you will not damage the nest. You learn this from trial and error. Each time I dig up a nest I always start digging where the entrance hole is located. I dig very shallow until I see part of the nest. Then I make my digging hole large enough for the nest to fit through it. The size of the hole will vary with the size of the nest. You will need practice to increase your accuracy in judging this since you can't actually see the nest.
6. Always bring some large bags with you on your nest collecting trips so you can place your specimens inside them until you get home to inspect your trophies. As your collection grows, I am sure you will enjoy your minature museum of nests because it is a gold mine full of knowledge of the world of wasps.
*Note: Here are some rules to follow when collecting nests:
a. Make sure all nests are EMPTY before you collect any of them.
b. If the nest you want is on someone else's property always ask permission from the landowner if you can take it before collecting the specimen. In the majority of cases, the person will most likely let you have the nest.
c. Ask for assistance when it is needed in collecting some nests.
d. BE CAREFUL!
DISPLAYING YOUR NESTS:
1. You can place your specimens on display shelves or large tables. Make cards for each nest which tell about the makers and the histories of all of them. Write down the dates and the locations of the nests found as well as the names of the species which built them.
2. Hanging up your nests indoors is very easy to do. It is also an ideal way to decorate a room and to display your specimens. You will need ceiling hooks and strong yarn or twine. Screw the hooks into the ceiling. Tie the twine on the branches jutting from the nests. Then, place them on the hooks. You can only hang up nests which come from trees, shrubs, bushes, and large vines because they have limbs which you can tie twine on. Also, you can cut open a square section of a hornet nest to reveal some of the combs inside and then you can hang it up. You might want to glue a few dead adult wasps on the nests as well. This gives the appearance that the nests are still inhabited by live swarms.
3. Pressing your nests is a fun thing to do in your spare time. All you need is a large hardback book and a hard, flat surface (sturdy desk top, table, chair, etc.). If you have a Polistine wasp nest, put the comb on a stable surface with the cells facing upward. Place a large hardback book directly on top of the comb and press down on it using your hands and the weight of your torso. Then, you can sit or stand on top of the "sandwich" which you made to flatten it more. Do not sit or stand on the nest itself because it will destroy the nest structure. Make sure there is a hardback book on top of it when you are doing this. You can achieve better results in using small combs. Bigger ones are not recommended for this project because they are thicker and don't press properly. If you have a nest which consists of an envelope (paper covering) and several combs you may want to press this too! First, you cut open the envelope with a pair of scissors. Then, you extract the combs and display them as is or you can press some of the smaller ones. You can also press the nest envelope, cut it down to the proper size, and display it in plastic ziplock bags.
KEEPING YOUR NESTS IN GOOD CONDITION:
1. Spray your nests with a good brand of insecticide. Treating your nests will rid them of unwanted insect guests such as mites, spiders, earwigs, silverfish, etc. After the treatment, leave them outside until they are thoroughly dry and until most of the poison smell is gone. If you notice an unpleasant odor coming from a hornet nest which you have collected, you can spray some Lysol disinfectant into the entrance hole to freshen it up. The odor is caused by dead larvae, pupae, and adults which still remain inside the nest.
2. If you want to store your nests, wrap them in heavy duty plastic wrapping and several layers of wrapping paper. Place them in labeled boxes with tight-fitting lids. Don't forget to put moth balls or cedar in each one of the boxes to keep out insect pests. The labels should have this information: species, location, and date.
3. The boxes and the storage areas for your nests should be inspected carefully and treated regularly for pests. Some common pests include mice, rats, moths, silverfish, termites, beetles, roaches, and crickets. They could destroy your nests if given the chance to do so.
4. If you want your nests to last longer you can spray them down with a clear polyurethane spray. The polyurethane spray will make the wasp paper much stiffer after it drys. This will definitely toughen up the nests.
5. The best method to use when mailing a vacated nest to someone is to obtain a large, sturdy cardboard container. You should use PLENTY of styrofoam packing peanuts (only) to pack the nest with. DO NOT use crumpled-up newspaper or other items to pack the nest with because these things will crush the nest. I've had quite a few nests mailed to me which were packed in this way. As a result, they were crushed by the time I got them. When used alone, styrofoam packing peanuts is the best packing material to use in my opinion. After the nest is securely packed and sealed, don't forget to write "FRAGILE" or "HANDLE WITH CARE" in big, bold letters on the outside of the package. This should cut down on the amount of damage done to the nest during the shipping and handling process.
ATTRACTING WASPS, HORNETS, AND YELLOWJACKETS:
1. You are a very lucky person if you have a lot of trees, bushes, shrubs, flowers, weeds, and a continuous, fresh source of water because social wasps are attracted to all of these things. The insects have access to nesting spots, nectar, hunting prey, and drinking water.
2. You can plant a flower garden. Bright colored, sweet smelling flowers are perfect for the garden and the wasps, of course. Once your flower garden starts growing really well, you will have many insect guests visiting it. Some of them will even make it their home.
3. Allow a secluded area of your land to become overgrown with weeds and wildflowers. This will be easy if you dislike doing yardwork!
4. Put out a bird bath or construct a small garden pond so the wasps will have a constant source of water to drink.
5. Another way to attract wasps is to fill small, shallow dishes or saucers with syrup or even sugar-water with a little food coloring in it or you can use tuna fish to attract the scavenging species of yellowjackets. Place the dishes outdoors on window sills and in different areas of your yard. Repeat this procedure on a regular basis. In time you will begin to see wasps, hornets, and yellowjackets visiting them.
6. Hummingbird feeders without bee-guards filled with hummingbird food can work wonders for you as well.
*HERE IS AN URGENT REQUEST FROM A VISITOR OF MY SITE:
"You say, 'Another way to attract wasps is to fill small, shallow dishes or saucers with honey, syrup, or even sugar-water with a little food coloring in it...' Please do not ever expose honey where honeybees can get at it. You can spread honeybee disease this way, and we have a new and especially troublesome antibiotic-resistant form that is showing up in some honey. I would really appreciate it you would remove the reference to honey, even put a warning about using honey."
Thanks for educating me in this matter, visitor. I have made the necessary changes. Of course, I always welcome suggestions from people on how to make this site better. Thanks again for your input! :o)
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