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Mysterious Death - Dolichovespula arenaria - female

Mysterious Death - Dolichovespula arenaria - Female
Perry County, Pennsylvania, USA
July 8, 2010
Not sure what happened. One day they were fine and the next, I found the nest abandoned. Upon removal I found three dead adults, and plenty of dead brood. I don't know what to think. I am sure it was not sprayed. There was not even a dead queen or more dead workers, it's like all the wasps just took off (although I don't know how a nest bound queen could fly away). Maybe overheating? That's my only theory, but the dominula next door to this nest are doing fine.

Whatever happened, I am once again very disappointed. I never have any good luck when it comes to nests on my property : /

Images of this individual: tag all
Through the Looking Glass  - Dolichovespula arenaria - female Usurpations  - Dolichovespula arenaria - female Usurpations  - Dolichovespula arenaria - female Night duty - Dolichovespula arenaria - female Mysterious Death - Dolichovespula arenaria - female

I'm sorry.
I'm sorry for your loss. No, really. I have never even seen many nests of this species and I wouldn't be surprised if the failure rate is quite high in this species anyway.

I wonder...
what the maximum temperature is that this species can endure. It has been getting to 101-104 degrees(F) these past few days, but like I said the P. dominula are still ok and they are in a similar nesting situation

arenaria seem more abundant this year though; I've come across more of of their nests than ever before (including an underground situation)

I think the nest bound queen could still fly...
and she must have moved with the reminding, living workers. First, the workers found another suitable place and began to build a new nest there. Some days later, the queen was among the last adults to leave the old nest. Such a "relocation" process is not uncommon when the conditions become somehow unsuitable. The price to pay is grim, since all the brood in the old nest is lost. I think the overheating was indeed the main reason they moved away.
Polistes dominula is still doing well in a similar location, but this is indeed a "hard boiled" species, much more resistant to heat than any temperate zone Vespine wasp, both as adult and as brood.

Thanks for the explanation, Richard
And I think you are right; it's the only explanation for why there are not more dead adults (either in the nest or below it). I only wish I had paid more attention so that I could have followed them to the new nest site and documented it. I have only ever read about nest relocation in Vespa, never Dolichovespula or Vespula. Aren't they supposed to dismantle the old envelope and use it in the new nest?

I guess I'll never know where the new home base is ;)