Monday, October 15, 2007

No Sweet Deal

Regular readers will recall my story a few weeks ago about Liz getting stung by a yellowjacket while walking in the garden, which led to the discovery of what was obviously a very large nest of these very territorial wasps in the ground right next to the path in question. I decided to just fence off that section of path rather than destroy the nest, since, though I have a somewhat prickly relationship over the years with yellowjackets, they are useful predators, and I never like to destroy any part of nature without some semblance of a good reason.
Unfortunately, my message about being good stewards of the woods has not apparently gotten around to all the local critters: last night a raccoon dug up the nest and devoured all the larvae, leaving piles of empty debris. The original nest must have been the size of a dishpan, with thousands of yellowjackets. The colony is scattered and homeless, and I don't know if the queen has survived. The garden may be a quieter place next spring; last year when the snowdrops bloomed I could actually hear the bees and wasps buzzing before I opened the gate. It's no sweet deal.
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Raccoons are so destructive, I did not know they would eat the larvae of wasps, I thought garbage was enough for them :), we have to bungee cord our garbage can or we are picking it up the next day. Is it too late in the season for the wasps to reconstruct if they found a new queen? It must have been a very large nest.

I have been enjoying your toad lilies and fall blooming plants, your garden must be beautiful and diverse.
How does Liz feel about the wasp nest possibly being "taken care of?"

You'll have to explain the good features of yellowjackets... I have a slight aversion to anything of that particular shape being close enough to bump into me.
Having personally been stung twice by yellow jackets this fall, I am not inclined to be as kind as you have been toward them. The one nest was up under some wood on my house, so it had to be destroyed. The other nest is out somewhere by my compost bins.
What are the odds that a raccoon would find the nest right after you did and decide to make dinner of it? Getting stung by a yellow jacket is never fun. I would have left the nest too, in hopes that cold weather would take care of it.
I've got to wonder whether the snack was worth the pain for the raccoon?
The only Yellow Jackets I like are the one’s that play football for Georgia Tech
IGG... You know, I think it's basically the Queen who survives to start a new colony in the spring, but i wonder if she needs worker bees to keep her warm in the winter... I haven't been able to figure that out from reading.

shady... Liz has not seemed to share my grief over the destruction of the yellowjacket nest... she's good at hiding her feelings, I guess.

Carol... I think I've been boped three times this year... goes with the territory.

Angie... I've been wondering what smell would attract a raccoon to these nests. They are always out in the garden digging up my bark mulch looking for bugs and centipedes.

MMD... I dunno; yellowjackets are pretty harmless, I guess, after dark.

Rusty... you know, the Iowa Hawkeyes here in Iowa City have gold & black for their colors and us fans are sometimes called "bumblebees" for dressing up in those colors.

Fun Fact - if you want to keep the wasps from settling in where you don't want them, put a bit of this old nest in that spot. There are very territorial and will avoid that area.

Or so I've heard. Old wive's tale, maybe, but also worth a try.

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