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Information, insects and people from the 2019 BugGuide Gathering in Louisiana, July 25-27

Discussion, insects and people from the 2018 gathering in Virginia, July 27-29

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SOCIAL WASPS (YELLOWJACKETS, HORNETS, AND PAPER WASPS)

Hello, fellow insect lovers!

Please allow me to introduce myself. This is my biography here on BugGuide:

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I am an expert on social wasps (as a hobby). I was also featured in the local newspaper 3 days after the horrific events of 9/11. The newspaper article is found here. I have an intense passion for the genus Dolichovespula (generally aerial-nesting yellowjackets). I specialize in the bald-faced "hornet" (D. maculata). However... I also love Polistes (common paper wasps), Vespa (true hornets), and Vespula (generally subterranean-nesting yellowjackets). I think their beautiful nests are masterpieces of nature! I love collecting abandoned GIANT nests for my collection (The bigger the better!). I usually purchase the nests online. I am always looking for more impressive nests to add to my collection. Please let me know if you have access to any. If you don't currently know where any nests are, then please keep me in mind for the future from now on (Thanks!).

Some of the showpieces in my extensive nest collection include a huge D. maculata nest which is 3 feet (36 inches) tall, an enormous P. annularis (red wasp) nest from east Texas which is the size of a dinner plate (12 inches in diameter), a large Brachygastra mellifica (Mexican honey wasp) nest from south Texas near the Mexican border, and a giant overwintered, 2-year perennial V. squamosa (southern yellowjacket) nest from Alabama which was discovered in an atypical aerial situation attached to a 2-story home. I wouldn't have the perennial yellowjacket nest in the first place if it wasn't for the kindness of Bob Jacobson (The scientist who described V. flavopilosa). Of course, I have many other exceptional nests in my collection. I often refer to my apartment as a "museum of natural history"! LOL!!!

I have my own website which educates people on the beneficial aspects of yellowjackets, hornets, and paper wasps. The website needs to be updated although it has LOTS of valuable information and pictures (I haven't worked on it in ages!). The link for it is here.

Also, I enjoy taking care of my pet bullsnake, giant wolf spider, and a thriving colony of giant South American cockroaches.
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Anyway, I just wanted to introduce myself so I wouldn't be a stranger here. :o)

By the way, I've contributed photos to BugGuide if anybody is interested in checking them out. In fact, I've added a total of 12 photos! I've posted 3 photos of a B. mellifica nest, 2 photos of 2 different P. annularis nests, 5 photos of 4 different D. maculata nests, and 2 photos of a V. crabro nest. Here they are:

http://bugguide.net/bgimage/user/10982

Please click on each photo to see the informative comments which I have for each one. Please feel free to leave feedback. Thanks!

Sincerely,
Terry Prouty

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Do you keep them as pets? I h
Do you keep them as pets? I have queen paper wasps that started her nest. They are fascinating.

 
WASPS AS PETS
Hello.

Unfortunately, I don't keep wasps as pets. I would LOVE to do so though! Nonetheless, it would not be a good idea since I am living in an apartment complex and the risk of my neighbors getting stung is great. I've always wanted to set up an observation wasp nest (preferrably P. annularis or one of the Dolichovespula species) and allow the colony freedom to the outdoors (You know, similiar to the observation beehives that you see indoors and the bees come & go through a tube which leads to outside). It would make taking care of a wasp colony a lot easier if you do it this way because the wasps would do all the work for you! On the VenomList website, I've seen pictures of people keeping wasp colonies completely enclosed inside screen cages and even inside plastic critter carriers with no way for the wasps to access the outdoors (Are you one of those people from VenomList?). However, I think that my way of wanting to keep a wasp colony would be more efficient in the long-run than keeping it inside a critter carrier where the person has to do most of the work in taking care of the wasps (Not to mention that you won't have to risk the chance of getting stung every single time that the critter carrier is opened to do routine maintenance!). Why not set up the colony in a way which allows the wasps to take care of themselves and also allows close observartion of the colony at the same time?

P. exclamans is common around here. I enjoy observing the active nests beneath the eaves of this apartment complex. I wait until the nests are abandoned in the late fall/early winter and then I collect them with my long extension pole with a scraper attachment. I would rather be collecting large D. maculata nests. However, I live right on the edge of this wasp's range and I've never seen one during all the years I've lived here... unfortunately. So, I am forced to buy most of my nests online (I don't really mind though because I would not have my impressive collection of GIANT nests today if it wasn't for the internet!).

Anyway, my main interest is adding more nests to my collection. I think wasp nests are natural works of art! I see the beauty in wasp nests and I receive much pleasure in expanding my collection. I think the majority of nests in my collection would have to be D. maculata. Nonetheless, I collect ALL KINDS of wasp nests in the genera Polistes, Dolichovespula, Vespula, Vespa, Brachygastra, etc... I prefer nests to be as large as possible with little or no damage.

So, please tell me more about your interest in keeping wasps as pets. Which species of paper wasps have you experimented with so far? Have you had success in caring for a colony through all of its stages of growth until fall? What do you do with the abandoned nests (hint, hint)? Would you like to try keeping some of the more advanced genera of wasps such as Dolichovespula or Vespula?

I am looking forward to your reply. :o)

Sincerely,
Terry

 
I have the northern paper was
I have the northern paper wasp I keep her in a large critter carrier INSIDE and I supply everything for her. I do not let her come and go as she pleases. I want to keep bald faced hornets in this manner but can't find small nests and the queen I did get died due to being over stressed by getting her self stuck, here are some pics for ya. I think personally that letting them come and go defeats the purpose of keeping them as pets I want them totally dependant on me and since they are in a cage (inside) the chance of them sting people is small to none. As for the length of time I have had them I had a full colony from mid summer to fall, and this year I induced a queen to start up a nest from scratch and aniticpate success with keeping the colony all year, I am going to try breeding and overwintering too.

As I stated for the hornets they seem a bit more tricky but I will try with them if I find or someone finds for me an embryo nest or a mated queen.

As for routine maintance she just goes and sits in her "box" with her nest and watches what I do, you will notice the critter carrier is upside down? This takes advantage of their tendancy to always want to go up and it leaves me enough working space that I can do my thing without violating the nest space, though I bet I could shove her off the nest with no issues (she is that laid back) though most members of Polistes fuscatus are that way.

I will send ya the abanded nest if ya want it They are no use to me I like the nests occupied. :)

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v322/Tleilaxu/Wasp%20project/000_2395.jpg.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v322/Tleilaxu/Wasp%20project/000_2414.jpg

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v322/Tleilaxu/Wasp%20project/000_2391.jpg

PS Yes I am from Venomlist I am Tleilaxu over there too the two other wasp keepers are waspman and vespa bicolor. Register and send me a line! And I myself like doing all the work, the paper wasp does not seem to mind infact it seems she knows that I bring food as she gets all excited and starts to hunt. I am really close to getting her to eat off my hand! That will be cool! :)

 
To: Tleilaxu
Thank you very much for your reply. I love your fascinating photos! :o)

If you are planning on eventually keeping D. maculata in the future, then please keep in mind that the nests of this species can be ENORMOUS (Sometimes 2, even 3 feet tall and over 40 inches in circumference!). Plus, as you should already know, a typical mature nest contains literally HUNDREDS of wasps. I am not sure how in the world you would be able to take care of a large colony like this if you are planning on doing most of the work yourself (especially if you want the colony to achieve its maximum potential!). On the other hand, a Polistes colony would be a lot easier to take care of since there aren't typically very many wasps on a nest (150 wasps at the most in some Polistes species).

If you want a challenge, then why don't you try keeping a colony of P. annularis? This particular Polistes species would most likely make a fascinating captive because it is one of the LARGEST paper wasps in North America. Plus, its nests are typically large... sometimes reaching the size of a dinner plate (12 inches in diameter)! Please refer to the photo of this ENORMOUS P. annularis nest in my own personal collection:

http://bugguide.net/node/view/110251

I think P. annularis is the ULTIMATE North American paper wasp! What do you think, Tleilaxu? Would you like to set a goal in keeping P. annularis in captivity? I think this wonderful rural species should be your next step up to keeping either D. maculata or D. arenaria (since P. annularis can have very populous colonies). You can refer to this BugGuide website to see what this beautiful wasp looks like. Here are some photos for you to check out:

http://bugguide.net/node/view/46906/bgimage

Enjoy! :o)

Actually, I'm already a member of the VenomList website. I just need to eventually start posting there! Hehehe!!! I am Carolina_wolfie over there.

I am looking forward to your reply.

Take care,
Terry

P.S. What is the size of the largest nests which your pet wasps have built for you?

 
Care to catch me some? They d
Care to catch me some? They don't live up here.I personally want to get some of the more tropical wasps like the pure red ones and..Polistes bahamensis, P. major, and now that I have seen them P. annularis. As for the bald faced hornet colonies getting huge I am aware but you can easily nip that in the butt by removing the building material once the colony reaches the desired size, control is the key with those guys.

The size of the nest is about two inches around. She did a lot on three weeks.

 
POLISTES ANNULARIS
Actually, P. annularis "fits the bill to the T" for you! It is a red color. Plus, this particular species is as tropical as it gets. If I'm not mistaken, the range of P. annularis extends down to Central & South America.

Unfortunately, I don't have access to this beautiful wasp because it is a RURAL species and I live in the city of Tulsa. However, it DOES occur here in Oklahoma (just not in the urban sector). I need to be out in the country to capture one. I think your best bet would be trying some of the businesses which specialize in capturing animals for people who keep them as a hobby. For example, I've done business with this one guy who gets various species of wild-caught invertebrates such as wolf spiders. In fact, I got my giant wolf spider (Hogna carolinensis) from him. I know that asking to capture & send live wasps would be a very unusual request for these businesses. Nonetheless, they MIGHT oblige you! If they tell you "no" or seem hesitant about it, then let them know what you are doing with the wasps and ask them if they wouldn't mind making an exception for you. Would you like more information on a couple of these businesses? I can't make any promises that they can do anything for you though.

P. exclamans are plentiful enough around here to possibly capture one for you.

Since you've mentioned P. major, I've been reading up on this intimidating species and I've discovered that it is a large tropical wasp with an infamous reputation for supposedly being pugnacious with a very painful sting to the point of being dangerous. The same can be said for the large P. annularis (Just ask any southern fisherman who has tangled with a P. annularis nest while trying to remove his fishing lure caught in the branches of a tree!). Then again, each colony within the same species has its own "personality" and can vary from temperament to temperament.

I am looking forward to your reply.

Take care,
Terry

P.S. I am curious about something. I hope that you don't mind me asking you this question. If you take away the nesting material for a wasp colony when you notice that it is getting too large, then you are not allowing it to reach its full potential. The colony's growth will be "stunted". Don't you want the colony to reach its full potential or does it really matter to you if it is not reached?

 
It does not matter to me weth
It does not matter to me wether the colony reaches its potential, infact I think having it reach its full potential in captivty would be dangerous both for the owner and the wasps, you want to keep crowding to a m in and a slower growing colony achieves that, also paper wasps are not as social as the hornets and if you have too many the colony fabric breaks down.

I have never seen a northern paper wasp colony with more than 25 members.

As for hornets having tyhem rech their full potential would be a major diservice to them as it would be impossible to supply them with enough food, and do proper maintance, My goal is to try and find ways to make it possible for anyone to keep these wonderful creatures as pets, and a full blown hornet/wasp nest is not something most people are willing to tackle and that would discourage new members to this budding hobby.

 
Thanks for the explanation.
Yes, I understand now why you want to stunt the growth of the colony.

I think it is great that you are experimenting with ways of keeping wasps as pets and trying to find the best method. I think that you are a pioneer in this regard and you are breaking new ground for others to follow behind you (I hope that you realize this!).

By the way, do you want the email addresses for a couple of businesses (which I had mentioned to you earlier) which might be able to help you in your quest in obtaining more live wasps?

 
Tleilaxu has gotten me into
Tleilaxu has gotten me into wasp keepin too and his E-mail adress is
Ghola@hotmail.com if you have any extra wasps please contact me at wdavis13@snet.net

 
I have also gotten into wasps as pets......
i have kept two sucessful colonies, one of p. exclamans, and one of p. fascatus. The only problem that i have is food for them. I can supply sugar water for the adults, but as for food for the larvas, my dad does not like the idea of ordering caterpillars for them. So I havent kept many colonies because in order to get the food for the larvas, I have to go out and hunt for flies, caterpillars, and tree crickets and this has proved hard. Neither of the two colonies got very big, but they survived and produced the reproductives at the end of summer.

Just curious.... Tleilaxu, how do you get the wasp queens to start their nests in the cage that you put them in?????

 
They use cardboard. I keep tw
They use cardboard. I keep two in a cage and wait until one starts building, then release the other tto build elsewhere. Foundresses need a protien boost, I E crickets waxworms, and other insects before they start building and laying.

 
Yes....
But whenever i catch a new spring queen and keep her in a cage, she never starts a nest, even when i give her the right foods and building materiel.

 
I have never seen them use wo
I have never seen them use wood, also mine did not build right away, it took a month before mine started.

 
A month!
Wow, i never waited a month! I diddent want to keep them too long and have them die, so if they diddent start a nest withhin like 2 weeks, i'd let them go. I will have to try again next spring!

Thanks for the info!!!!!!!!!

 
They adapt really well to bei
They adapt really well to being in captivity, and seem to learn the ropes really fast for insects.

 
FYI its best to get them just
FYI its best to get them just as they emerge in late march/early april, I got mine just after the snow thaw, if you get them a few weeks later you run the risk of having a queen that had already started a nest and will be reluctant to start a new one. They come out on the first warm days when the temps are 40 and above.

 
Thanks for that great information!!!!
The only ones that i have taken to try in the past were ones that i actually saw looking for a place to nest. That way i knew that they did not already have a nest. You seem to have A LOT of good info on wasps, have you been keeping them as pets for a long time?

 
I have had them on and off fo
I have had them on and off for a year with two years of intensive study. I currently have on northern paper wasp colony and one dominula colony

 
Cool!
Thats awsome! I can't wait to try again next spring!

 
Just wondering...
Do you know if this would also work With a European hornet queen(vespa crabro) or a Bald faced hornet queen( dolichovespula maculata)??????

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