Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Las Ciegas (The Blind Ones) or New Bugs 2

wasp nest

Looks a little like a Chinese farmer's hat, doesn't it? It is the strangest bug nest I have seen. It was created in a neglected brush pile outside our front door. As I walked up from the workshop to the house about a month ago all these menacingly large insects were whirling about, ones I'd never seen before. By the time I was close enough to really see them I first thought they were wasps (which they are, but at the time I had doubts). I didn't panic, just kept walking, as I'd been around nest-making wasps before and usually they are so focused on their task that they don't bother interlopers. [video below the fold]


wasp colony
Nest building

Still, I kept my distance, but came out to video and photograph these creatures from another world. My doubts about their class of bug was due to three things: they were an odd color, had no visible stinger, and their wings reminded me of termites (albeit twice the size).

It wasn't until they left that I found out what they were, las ciegas, or blind ones, so called because during the daylight they are unable to see. Yes, indeed they are a kind of wasp and I was told by my neighbor who came to inspect the empty nest that at night they can be very dangerous, inflicting severe stings. 

wasp nest from below
Bottom side of the nest

During the month of their stay our two tribes kept to themselves, but I still poked my nose in now and then to inspect their nest building. At first, they were this writhing mass as in the picture above, but over the next few days a structure started to emerge, like the top of a monstrous mushroom. I didn't dare touch it though I was very curious as to what it was made from. In form and substance it didn't appear to me like any wasp nest I'd ever come across. It was apparently not hollow as the blind ones never went inside it. Instead, they would hang from it underneath in one mass clinging to the edges.

Finally, after those several weeks during which no one got hurt, they swarmed for the second time. Except this time the swarm was larger as their numbers had increased and they were spreading out looking for a new neighborhood in which to build another nest. This swarm was more intimidating than the first as they surrounded most of one end of the house and were even banging into the windows. After an hour or so the wasp storm died down and they'd vanished. 

We pulled out the nest and it was then I understood how they'd used it. Inside the "honeycomb" they'd laid their eggs and the guarded all the openings by hanging on to them from underneath. The nest has almost the exact texture and spongy feel of cardboard. 



Maybe we were just lucky that no one was stung in spite of our blissful ignorance, but if they were to come again, I think I'd still just let them be.
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5 comments:

  1. Interesting post, thanks for sharing.

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  2. Interesting. It's my first time to see something like this.

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  3. Interesting article but I was more intrigued by your comment about returning from your workshop. We will be moving to Costa Rica in 2 years and I want to hone my wood working skills in my retired years. Do you have any information you could share on wood working in CR?

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  4. Interesting article but I found my interest drawn to your comment about your workshop. We'll be moving to Costa rica in 2 years and I hope to hone my wood working skills during retirement. Do you have any information you could share on this subject?

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  5. Hi Rick,

    Not sure what you want to know specifically. There are a lot of woodworkers here that are quite skilled and I'm sure they wouldn't mind sharing their knowledge with a hobbyist. Of course, there are a wide variety of woods to choose from, though one of the most predominant is cedro madre, a tawny color wood called cedar but much harder than cedars in the U.S. It's a good idea when you come to hunt down some of the single family mills in an area, which often cultivate their own trees. That way you can order up what you want much less expensively than buying in the retail lumber yards. Drop me a line by e-mail if you have more questions.

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Thanks so much for your comment! - Casey

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