Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Diplomacy or War

The wood pile is one of the favorite hibernation sites of yellow jacket queens. They crawl in between pieces of wood hoping to be able to spend the winter there. We have learned to check each piece carefully before bringing wood into the house. Otherwise the queen warms up, figures spring has come and starts flying and buzzing around the house. When she figures out that spring hasn't come she looks for another place to overwinter and boots, sleeves of jackets and under pillows are favorite sites.

Now, I am not a sentamentalist where animals are concerned. These things have nasty stings. I'm not allergic and neither is anyone in our family, but those stings still hurt so we try and avoid them. But I have learned over the years to have a huge lot of respect for these small creatures. These queens carry in their bodies all the eggs for an entire colony for next season. They have to stay alive not only for themselves but for 4000 or 5000 members of their colony. In the spring she will come out of hibernation and make a small paper nest in a tree or in a hollow space in the ground. She will lay enough eggs to get a corp of workers going and will feed them until they are ready to take over the jobs of making a bigger nest and feeding the rest of the young.

As long as her nest isn't on a major traffic path or in the wall of the house (that happened one year) we leave them alone. They are major predators of cabbage worms and aphids and in the years when there aren't a lot of yellow jackets around we immediately notice an increase in those two garden pests. So we don't engage in an all out war against them but try diplomatically to not harm them when they are in situations where they aren't going to harm us.

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