Long Beach resident uncovers yellow jackets’ artwork – SunHerald.com

LONG BEACH — Resident Leo Harris said he “couldn’t believe what (he) was seeing” when he encountered what looked like an interesting wasp’s nest that had been forming in a cardboard box in his garage since about April.

Harris said when it first showed up he didn’t think much of it, “just a box with bugs in it.”

He said he got sick and didn’t check it for a couple months. Now, what was just a box of bugs has turned into a nest that has engulfed the entire top of the box.

“I’m worried because I have gone through five cans of various bug sprays to try and kill them, and they’re still alive,” Harris said. “One side of the box has even collapsed from me spraying so much poison on it.”

Harris’s neighbor, Theresa Borzik, said, “This isn’t a normal nest. It’s strange.”

Borzik described the nest as rippling sand similar to layers on a desert dune of all different colors.

“It’s some pretty artwork with pretty wild inhabitants,” Borzik said.

Tim Lockley, a specialist in entomology and retiree of a 30-year career as a research scientist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said judging from pictures, he would guess it is the nest of Vespula squamosa, better known as the Southern yellow jacket. Lockley said they are “quite common” although their choice of nesting place in this case is not.

The queen of V. squamosa is a “facultative social parasite,” which means it can complete its life cycle without depending on a host. It takes over the nest of Vespula maculifrons (Eastern yellow jacket) and over time will completely overtake the colony, Lockley said.

V. maculifrons workers will ignore their own queen and rear the brood of the squamosa queen. As squamosa workers overtake the maculifrons, they too replace the nest material, which can explain the variable colors in the nest.

Maculifrons tends to construct cells using gray-colored material, and the squamosa uses tan-colored material.

Long Beach resident uncovers yellow jackets’ artwork – SunHerald.com
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