A Little bit loony, so you are warned…

(What about Colonising Mars? Do Wasps have the key?)

alan skeoh
Oct. 2017

“Alan, the wasps are after the wine…too many of them…seems dangerous.”
“Not so, what you are witnessing is a tragedy.”

Note: Wasp drone on the wine glass stem feeding on the sugar left by my sticky hand. and look up. There is a poor drone
dead drunk from the wine and drowning in the little pool of red wine. Yes, wasps do get drunk.
“Tragedy? Only tragic if we get stung.”
“Nobody here is allergic…no danger….have a little pity for the poor wasps…”
“Yep, these are drones…male wasps. They are starving…will soon die of starvation.
“Starving, my foot, they are nosing into the wine like candidates for AA.”
“No longer being fed by the baby wasps. End of the year and end of their lives. “

“What do you mean by ‘’fed by baby wasps’…sounds like you’ve got the story backwards. Adult wasps look for food for baby wasps…not the reverse.”
infertile males. Without that they die. And these guys are in a panic since the
babies have grown up. That big paper nest is empty. Nobody home. Abandoned. Never to be used again. Somewhere the new queens are looking for loose bark or a crack in a rock
…a place to spend the winter. Those Queens have folded their wings and their antennae and are going to sleep for a few months. Some will freeze but most will
come to life and set up s new nest….lay eggs and raise new workers. Those queens got pregnant first…carrying the next generation as she goes into suspend animation.
Those queens that survive the winter carry in their tiny wombs the future of their species.”
“You mean the young queens are the only survivors?”
“Right. Come to think of it that would be a good way to propagate human life on Mars or some distant planet yet to be discovered. Send fertilized eggs. Take little space in a rocket. Hatch when ready. Suppose we would have to send a couple of human adults to do a bit od education. But the plan to wen 80,000 human adults to Mars in
giant space ships seems ‘over the top’…send the fertilized eggs like the wasp[s do.”
“What will they eat?”
“No idea. Seems we can eat almost anything. Wasps in spring and summer are like that. Workers wasps bring a lot of dead or dying bugs back to the next. They are
meat eaters…and nectar eaters…complicated diet. Wasps are good for the garden because they kill lots of pests. Stuff them into the mouths of the wasp larva living
in those little beds mum made for them in the nests. The larva then secrete a sugary substance that the drones like to eat. Want a summary…simple, “I will bring you a caterpillar if you’ll give me some candy.”
“Another of your silly comments…”
“Amazing creatures. A single queen carries the genetic makeup of a whole community. In spring she makes a small paper nest…lays her eggs, tends to her young, raises them to adulthood and then lets sexual activity do the rest. Young produce young in larger and larger numbers. Some fertile males, some drones, some other queens…enough to establish a mini-civilization where all are employed.
“Oh, shut up! Do something useful for once in your life.”
“I don’t really care. Get rid of the wasps around here. There are so many dipping into our wine glasses that we are bound to get stung.”

Note: Afraid of being stung? Only females can do that…over and over again. But how do you tell the difference between a male and a female…need
a magnifying glass which is her to use when you are on the run.
“Can’t happen…no danger”
“Why not?”
“These are all males…slowly starving to death males.”
“Males…sh-ambles. Starving…sh-marving! They can still sting!
“Nope. Never could.”
“Why not?”
” Pacifists. Just do not want to fight. Drones cannot fight. No stingers on their bums.
They are just wasps with no stingers. Pacifists. No. that gives the wrong impression too. Wasps do not want trouble. We can co exist with them. The only time they get angry
and send the females to sting is when their home seems in danger. Human pacifists are not much different.”

“What about the wasps that stung Jackson, Sean and you a couple ofd months ago. No pacifists there. They got all of you and got you good. Two or three
welts each. Why?”
“Because we were a threat. I wanted to use that corner of the greenhouse for tools. Corner had been piled with junk for years. Had been the perfect spot for a wasp next which was so well hidden we never found it until the very end. But they knew we were trouble.”
“Suppose you or one of the boys was allergic?”
“Now that is a totally different can of worms…can of wasps. A wasp sting can kill in that case. Body swells up, lose consciousness…bad situation. Call 911 … get to hospital. For a few people a wasp bits is deadly. Wish I had not made light of that fact. When we got bitten this summer I just told the boys “Your mummy is not here. You only have me and we are going to get those wasps out of the greenhouse or die trying. Now get in there. Take the stings.” Only later did I think deeply about the poison in
those bites.”

Note: This wall of tools and tool chests was the home territory of wasp colony. Sadly killed..

“What happened to the nest?”
“Strangest thing, we Never did really see it. There was an ancient rusty square gallon can…19th century thing. Camouflage for their nest. Rusty holes for them to get in an out. When we moved the can…they attacked .”
“And sad to say, we blasted them with Wasp Killer…shot a stream into the can. Killed all the babies and the queen. Which means all the survivors would eventually starve to death unless they could find food elsewhere which was possible in the summer but now, in the late fall, food is getting scarce so those glasses of red wine were irresistible.”
“Alan, do you mean that all those paper wasp nests, most as big as soccer balls, are now empty…dead?”
“:Yep. Occasionally one might survive if there is a supply of sugar. But that is rare. Remember the nest we kept in the dining room. Sat there for years. Found it when the leaves fell years ago.” “
” It has suddenly come to life after years of neglect.”
“Movie. Anne of Green Gables bought it for Anne’s room…decoration.”
“If most wasps die then how come they are so plentiful each summer?”
“Let me say this again. There is much that is hard to explain. Those pregnant queens that winter over in whatever nooks and crannies they can find carry their life force… all in tiny form. When springs comes she lays a bunch of infertile eggs…raises drones and infertile females as workers…then when their house is built she seems to create a fertile male to impregnate some of her newly created fertile daughters. Then she along with all others except for those fertile daughters die. All gone. Life force has been transferred to those new fertile queens who then
have to survive the winter. Not all do. But enough survive to create a new colony. Quite amazing.”

Note: Marjorie and I are not heavy wine drinkers so do not let these pictures create a false impression We did however purchase two glasses of red wine
at this fancy restaurant in Picton at a cost of $12.50 each glass plus tip…so around $30. There were no wasps here. We could barely afford it…the wasps could not at all. I wonder how restaurants keep those starving drones from weaselling there way into dining rooms for s free meal? The reason for this post script is sad. One of the wines…the best one…was a McMannis red wine from the Napa Valley of California. That wine along with most of the wasps in North America are now gone. The wasps will return next year. But will the Napa Valley survive the horrific fires that have swept and destroyed those Cslifornis vineyards in Oct. 2017?
alan skeoch
Oct., 2017

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