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The perils of being an arborist

June 6, 2021
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I have always thought that arborists particularly those who, wielding chainsaws whilst using ropes to suspend themselves from trees led dangerous lives. Of course if you know what you’re doing it’s probably not as bad as it looks. Unless…

I recently had to call in a group (plantation?) of arborist to fell some dead pines on my property. Everything was going well until a ‘down tools’ was called. An enormous wasp nest was found suspended from one of the branches high up in the tree (pictured left). Buzzing around the nest were what appeared to be, from a distance, some European Wasps (Vespula germanica). Interestingly I could not convince any of the arborists to climb up and get a closer look at the insects for identification purposes!

The nest removal involved me covering myself from head to toe in thick clothing i.e. CFA gear, such that not a bit of skin was exposed and under cover of nightfall and using a red light head torch for lighting knocking the structure down with a large pole. Fortunately the nest was unoccupied.

All social wasps i.e. those which live communally, build nests made of paper. Tree bark and other plant fibres are chewed, mixed with saliva and then molded into shape. At the centre of the nest are the hexagonal chambers where the eggs are laid and the larvae grow. This structure is usually surrounded by a protective paper shell. European wasps, even though they construct nests underground, line the nests with paper using the same technique.

Needless to say that after attacking the nest with a pole none of the brood structure remained intact but the picture above right shows the amazing structure of the external paper shell.

I am not convinced it was the nest of European Wasps. Given it was abandoned, the wasps seen (if in fact they were European ones) may have been scouting around looking for dinner….or a place to doss down for the night.

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