Persistent nest-builder: grass-carrying wasp – Chambersburg Public Opinion

Greenvillage resident Lucille Sappington enjoys sitting on her front porch, looking out over their shrubbery and watching what she calls “God’s creatures” as they move about. But this year she has experienced something new and fascinating while sitting on the porch — a very persistent wasp.

Grass-gathering wasps usually build their nests in the framing of window screens. People are prone to find them in the fall when they change screens out for storm windows. But Lucille was surprised this summer to find one stuffing grass into the top of one of the wind chimes she and her husband Bill have on the porch, only a few feet from where she likes to sit.

“I had never seen anything like that before, Lucille said. ” It is a thin little brown

thing. I just thought it was interesting to see it pick this dried grass and stuff it down in the tube. Then the wasp would go down into the tube and you would see the grass going down. She would pull it after her.

“Then it would come back with another piece of grass and do the same thing and the grass would stay in the tube. It was so interesting just to sit here and watch her do all of that laborious work — and she never bothered me.

“Then one day the grass was all over the porch floor. I think it was deliberately pushed out by the wasp. I thought maybe she was finished with the nest. But then she came back. She didn’t put any more grass in but she would go down into the tube.”

Lucille’s husband Bill decided to give the wasp a

hand, and two weeks after they first noticed the wasp, he put caps on the bottom of the wind chime tubes to keep the grass in.

“But now I can’t see down in there anymore because the bottom is not open,” he said. “Before, I could look down in there and see her.”

The Sappingtons are anxious to see how their industrious grass-carrying wasp saga plays out. Will she build a nest in the wind chime in which she will produce young wasps — or not?

Many people might be inclined to hope not and be glad if the wasp moved on. But the Sappingtons have a fondness for wildlife that others might lack.

“These are God’s creatures,” Bill said. “They haven’t been put on this earth to be mistreated. We had a groundhog that used to come up and sit on the porch. We put an apple out for it and then he would go underneath the porch because there’s a little bit of a depression there.

“But I knew that if we kept him any length of time we would have problems. So I caught him and took him out away from here and let him go.

“We have four cats, and all of them are strays. They are not something we went out and got. And we’ve raised raccoons from babies — five of them all together.”

Lucille remembers, “One of the raccoons would jump up on our German shepherd’s back and ride it around.”

“We’ve also had ducks,” Bill said. We found a duck egg and took it to a hatchery and got a little duckling. It turned out to be a neighborhood duck; it would disappear and we’d get a phone call, ‘Your duck is over here,’ maybe two streets away. So we would go over in the car and open the car door, and the duck would jump right in.

“So we are not afraid to take care of animals. These wasps normally build in the tracks of windows, where this one is working on a wind chime and it is only a quarter of an inch in diameter. But she gets down there.”

Linda Secrist, program assistant for Franklin County Penn State Extension, points out that “wasps, hornets and yellow jackets are beneficial because they need protein for their young,” she said. “So throughout the summer when they’re laying eggs, they are capturing insects. They take them back to where they laid the eggs and when the eggs hatch there is protein there for young wasps and hornets.”

Secrist advised that if you see a wasp’s nest and it is not in a location where it is endangering a door or a passageway, it should be left alone.

All bees except honey bees only use a nest for one year, she said. When you see a bee’s nest in the fall, those wasps and hornets are all dead except the queen — and she is in hibernation.

The Sappingtons should fare alright with their guest, because grass-gathering wasps, Secrist said, are generally not aggressive or combative.

Grass-carrying wasp images

To view images of a grass-carrying wasp, visit Iowa State University Entomology’s page at

Persistent nest-builder: grass-carrying wasp – Chambersburg Public Opinion
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