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]
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.
|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.