Saturday, 9 April 2016

"Trump" Tower

Well we have all heard of Trump Tower. How about Cocks' Tower?
My friend Graeme Cocks drilled some holes in a block of wood and hung it outdoors to see what he could attract. Wasp and Bee "hotels" are not new. Naturalists have been doing this sort of thing for years. Books have been written on the subject. It is interesting and fun to see what shows up.

Before the uninitiated wonder why anyone would want to "attract" wasps and bees, it should be noted that these insects are "solitary". This is opposed to "social". Solitary bees and wasps are just that. They do not make communal nests with hundreds or thousands of individuals. The social bees, honey bees, for example, produce nests that should be kept well away from habitations etc.

Anyone can make a wasp or bee hotel. All you need is a drill. The one above measures about .5m in length and is about 65 mm deep. holes of different sizes will attract wasps and bees of different sizes.

All you have to do is hang one out and wait. Eventually someone will find it and begin to use it. If there is no interest on the part of the wasp and bee community, then move it to another location. These insects seem to like a bit of sunlight. Bee hotels kept in the shade seem to be ignored.

What can you attract? Well there is a great variety of these insects, perhaps more than you think. And with them come the wasp and bee parasites. But you have to keep on the lookout. That's why it is a good idea to have the hotel near a window or walkway where it can be more or less continually observed.

Here are a few examples that have shown up thusfar.
 This is a Potter Wasp checking out the facilities. The capped hole below is completed, the egg laid and eventually the adult will emerge--that is if it has not been parasitised by another wasp.
This wasp is adding a layer of mud that will form the sealed cap.

 Smoothing the edgesbefore sealing.

 Compare the wings of this wasp which is stationary, with the same wasp below which is in flight.

In the top photo, the wings first pair of wings are longitudinally folded on one another. When in flight in the one just above, they are fully expanded as is normal for wasps. All but one subfamily of the Vespidae have the wings longitudinally folded at rest. The one exception if the members of the subfamily Masarinae. Many hymenopterists regard the masarids as a separate family so in that case all vespids would have the wings folded longitudinally at rest. The most commonly known vespids are the Yellow Jackets, of which the European Wasp is an example. The European Wasp is an introduced and aggressive social wasp that can cause great pain through its stings if one stumbles upon a nest. It, fortunately, does not occur in the Australian tropics but is a great source of irritation in the southeast of the continent.

Usually the wasps provision their nests with paralysed insects. The most common prey is caterpillars.  Many wasps collect pollen and honey with which they stock their nests. In this instance I observed no prey being brought to the nest. Maybe next time.
Sorry bub.

Another wasp taking advantage of the "hotel" is this one. It is a member of the family Sphecidae. This is a diverse group of wasps and many its subfamilies are now transferred to another family, the Crabronidae. Whichever classification you choose, it is a very large group of wasps with species ranging greatly in size and biology. They are predatory and utilise a variety of insects and spiders to provision their nests.
This one seems to be adding some fluffy plant material to the nest. Beyond that I did not see her provision the nest. It was promptly sealed up.

Then this appeared. Any suggestions?


Insect Identifications said...

Pison sp. Crabronidae I believe.

Assis de Mello said...

That's nice!
Beautiful creatures! Trum is not!

Assis de Mello said...

I meant "Trump"..

Paul said...

Hiya david, been too long. I have been meaning to do this myself ... for years now, and after reading this fantastic post - I'm gonna do it! I'll keep you posted - cheers for the great work - Paul