August 20, 2019

CT Naturalist: Wasp vs. Wasp Fight for Food

The second article in our series from CTnaturalist  looks at a common Connectcut resident, the paper wasp.

Many Connecticut residents have backyard gardens during the summer. Gardens commonly provide fruits, vegetables, flowers, and herbs that many families enjoy throughout the summer and autumn. Yet some of the most amazing wildlife activity occurs in our backyard gardens without us even knowing!

Today we have captured a remarkable insect battle between two paper wasps on film. Click the video below to see live action!

 

Although paper wasps are often considered pests because of their sting, they are extremely beneficial to gardens. They spend their days hunting around the leaves of plants. They seek out garden pests to kill and bring back to their hive to feed their young.

Most often, they are observed devouring moth caterpillars or beetle larvae that can ravish a plant’s leaves.
In this week’s video, a paper wasp has killed a caterpillar that was infected with parasites. When the wasp killed the caterpillar, the parasites within spilled out over the leaf. Now the wasp feeds on all of its victims. The worms are the larval form of smaller wasp that lays its eggs inside caterpillars, when the eggs hatch they feed on the caterpillar from the inside out.

The paper wasp snatches the worms and roles them into round balls, mixing in some saliva to help mold and preserve the shape. The wasp is intently focused on this task because this meal will be brought to its hive and fed to its young.  The balls of food will be placed in the hive chambers where the its larvae reside . Hence, the care in preparing the meal, it must be provide enough nutrition for the young to develop into mature wasps.

The wasp flies away to deliver its goods to the hive. It returns, but in the world of nature, a free meal doesn’t come easy and it isn’t long before a yellow paper wasp finds the black wasps kitchen. The yellow wasp attempts to steal the kill and the black wasp fights it off.

This micro-battle is only of many stories happening in gardens throughout Connecticut. Take time this summer to observe your own garden; you never know what you might find!

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