Paper wasps compete for Darwin award

The Snark

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I was amused, then concerned, when these guys decided to hang their nest over the river on this bamboo. This is probably the weakest, soggiest bamboo species in existence, slowly sagging and lying down every which way.

The nest is now nearly 3 feet tall and has about 50 entrances. It started about 20 feet above the river and is now only about 10 feet above certain doom.
 

Vulgaris

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That is so amazing! I would love to have something like that for my collection.

How long have they been building it? Can you get closer shots of the wasps so we can ID them?
 

The Snark

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I'm guessing this nest is 4 to 5 months old. The 'penthouse' above the stalk is only about 4 weeks old.

I -think- it is this wasp. These kids are serious chunkers, averaging over 1 1/2 inches long.

I've watched these guys munch on wood. They operate two ways; this one is sort of skinning the wood. Harvesting a strip off it. They also bore into the wood, possibly going after larvae or maybe termites?
I believe the lighter colored areas of the wood are where they have been recently been harvesting.
 
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xhexdx

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It would sure be interesting to be there when the bamboo breaks. :D
 

Vulgaris

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That is a species of Vespa. certainly not what I was expecting!

Vespa are not wood borers. They scrape off the sturdy gray fibers to use as building material (as in your photo), but the wood boring wasps you mention must be a different type

Let me know if they abandon the nest. I would be interested in buying it
 
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The Snark

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Questions!

Why are these investigating holes bored into the wood?
We have one very similar to this but with two bright yellow stripes instead of the yellow orange half abdomen coloration. Care to guess what it is?

My brain boggles at the thought of corralling that nest, packing it in a crate, and trying to explain it to customs and airport or freight security:
"It's a wasp nest. It's sort of like a bomb that never goes off. Maybe."
 
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The Snark

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Better photo

It is definitely the orange abdomen wasp I added a pic of. (Vespa?)
On my screen, the culm of the bamboo where it enters the nest is 1cm and the entire nest is 24 cm tall. Guesstimating that culm is 1 1/2 inches thick, that makes the nest 36 inches tall at present. That would make the circumference roughly 84 inches. My calculations are obviously conservative as the wasps appear pretty darned small in this pic when they average 1.5 inches long.
The wasps can be vaguely seen working all over the exterior of the nest with 2 in outline hanging from the bottom.

 
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Vulgaris

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They could be investigating the holes just to see if there is food in there. Social wasps are always very curious

Yes, they are a species of Vespa. I am not sure which species are in Thailand

That nest is truly a masterpiece! Keep us posted on what happens with it
 

The Snark

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I have no choice but to monitor this nest as I see it out the bedroom window every morning. Sort of a semi permanent fixture to keep me uneasy. The stalk it is on is dwarfed and won't be able to bend far enough to reach the river to relieve some of the weight. It is already bowed more than all the other stalks in the clump. If the stalk kinks, it rapidly dies and unlike most bamboo, this kind decomposes and loses integral strength in a few weeks.

The insect expert here has informed me these nests can last several years. He knows of one that lasted 10.

I have considered an assortment of engineering feats to help it out. The most recent suggestion is getting some of my Hmong in-laws to shoot an arrow across the river with a fishing line on it, pull a rope across, and make a suspension support for the stalk from the second story of our house to a tree across the river.

Yes, these are extremely inquisitive insects. I have encountered them several times, just poking their nose into things, often for hours at a time. One of them once decided our picnic needed checking out and went over everything in sight, even landing on our heads and hands. The only wasp I have encountered that is larger is the tarantula hawk.
 

Vulgaris

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Based off the nest size, it looks like it might already be on it's second year. i would not expect one of these to last for more than three years. A 10 year Vespa nest?! That sounds impossible. He may be talking about something else...

I would be careful while trying to rig up a device to support it. Angry hornets are not nice....
 

The Snark

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The insect pro here has a little private museum. He has a nest like this one, in pretty beat up condition, almost 7 feet tall. He thinks this nest is this years, which means no older than 10 months. I think the reason for the great nest size is the size of the wasp.

Guying up the stalk wouldn't be difficult. We have some incredibly capable archers here. While jiggling their nest is sure to cause them to take some umbrage, they seem to settle down very quickly. I would not be into trying the feat with hornets, at least not late in the year like this. The greatest concern is the rope would have to be tied to the house which would then require that sticky stuff to keep the ants from gaining entrance.
 

Vespula

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As I look at that nest, and the wasps that build it... the only word I have for it is... "want". lol. :drool:

Those are gorgeous wasps, and the nest is a masterpiece!
 
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