This week I watched with interest as a paper wasp (Polistes sp.) had its hands full while at rest on some Bracken (Pteridium aquilinum)…a lovely, lacey looking fern native to just about everywhere in the U.S.
As I approached to attempt a photograph, it was so preoccupied with its catch that it didn’t even notice I was around. Face down, butt up, I couldn’t get a clear shot of what was in the clutches of this semi-social insect.
I wasn’t afraid to get close since this species of wasp doesn’t tend to attack unless you disturb the nest. Of course they will sting if you happen to grab onto the nest, and I can attest to that fact, although the sting seemed mild, perhaps just a warning.
Of course stings are hazardous to some because many people have an allergic reaction that can be deadly if not quickly acted on.
The wasp finally noticed me and struggled to fly away with the bounty. It didn’t get far, landing on Blackroot (Pterocaulon pycnostachyum) which was in close proximity.
I again clicked away, still trying to figure out what was in its clutches. Was it a caterpillar? Seemed squishy, so that was my assumption.
When I got into the computer and began cropping and examining the pictures close up, I was perplexed because this didn’t look like a caterpillar I’d seen before. It appeared rather colorful in a bright, multi-color sort of way. I squinched my eyes trying to find details of legs or eyes or SOMETHING to help me with identification.
I thought that maybe the paperwasp had chewed on a biting creature since there were tones of dark red…blood perhaps? Seemed like too much goo for that scenario, unless it grabbed a nurse from the blood bank.
All of a sudden I found “the money shot”. I did a double-take, conjuring up the legs of another critter, but no, that didn’t seem to be. I sat back and stared, somewhat in disbelief as I thought (s)he had a blackberry (Rubus sp.).
I knew that paper wasps enjoyed nectar…I always see them on many of the native flowers in the Asteraceae family found around my place. A little investigation indicated that in addition to nectar they take juice from ripe fruit.
So, I headed out to the garden to get hold of a ripe blackberry and dug my nail in so I could see the innards. I always pop the entire berry into my mouth, so really didn’t know what the inside might look like.
WOO HOO! LOOKS LIKE WE HAVE A MATCH!
If you plant berry producing shrubs you’ll not only be feeding the birds, you’ll also be providing for our pollinator friends and others. Another fascinating day in my beautiful wildlife garden.
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