National Geographic : 1937 Jul
POTENT PERSONALITIES-WASPS AND HORNETS Photograph by Paul Griswold Howes TRANSFIGURATION: SOON A SLIM, WINGED BEAUTY WILL APPEAR If the page is turned so the left side is at the bottom, the delicate pupa of a paper wasp may be seen more readily. Plainly visible are the huge eye, the two front legs, and the tiny transparent wing in front of the long rear leg. In a few days the larva (right), already grown fat on insects, will likewise pass through the pupa stage and emerge a sleek and slender wasp. (Greatly enlarged.) Most obnoxiously familiar of our social wasps are the various hornets, of which ten different sorts live in the northeastern United States. Two of these are shiftless racketeers, living at the expense of hard working relatives. If curiosity should induce you to observe the activities of hornets, you would soon discover that all of them are insect feeders. They catch insects of very many different kinds, carve them up into steaks and chops of the proper size or chew them up into a sort of pudding, and feed them to their young ones. It is surprising to find how many noxious insects every day disappear into a hornets' nest. Commonest of our native hornets is the little yellow jacket (Color Plate V, upper) that builds its nest usually in the ground, just where you are likely to step on it. Sometimes it builds in an old tree stump, and occasionally under the eaves of buildings. We have another kind much like it and equally common, and farther south a third, Vespula squamosa (Plate IV, fig. 6). The yellow jackets feed their young on insects of various kinds, including some times butterflies, which they dismember with skill and chew into a pulp. A yellow jacket catching a cabbage white butterfly is shown in Plate V, upper. A larger hornet, Vespa crabro, introduced from Europe and now widespread in the eastern United States, has the reprehensi ble habit of gnawing twigs of trees, espe cially the birch, and is sometimes injurious to the lilac. Larger than the native yellow jackets and black and white is the white-faced hornet that builds its paper nest in trees or bushes, or about houses. The nest is often very large, as much as two feet in length, and may contain several hundred individuals (pages 68, 70, 71 and Plate V, upper). INTRUDERS IN A HORNETS' NEST This hornet feeds its young chiefly on flies, especially on houseflies, Musca do mestica; that is why you so often see it about stables, and about the kitchen door. After catching a fly it chews it into a pulp, commonly suspending itself by one hind leg while doing so (Plate V, upper, right).