Spring and early Summer this year presented us with about one of the wettest, as well as hottest and most humid for some time. For almost a week, we had temperatures close to and above 30C and humidity that was approaching 100% (at one point it reached 95%). The farmers are naturally happy as they have have had a bumper season and have been able to harvest several times in the last few months so that their silage supplies are well and truly sorted out. The hot and humid weather has also meant that other things have been in large supply as well and, in this case, it’s the number of spiders throughout our home. Fortunately the vast majority have taken up residence outside, but the numbers are far in excess of anything we’ve seen in the last five years.
I’m not sure what these particular web weavers are, but they are everywhere at the moment. When we first moved in, these spiders were right around the entire house under the eaves and anywhere there was a bit of shelter. A good surface spray got rid of them for the next few years. Now I don’t mind spiders, but these particular ones were in such numbers and made such a mess of webs, that even the most ardent of spider lovers would have had enough. Of course when such bounty exists, there are others that arrive to take advantage and, in this case, it’s numerous wasps. They have cleaned out most of the spiders without recourse to poison, but they make their own mess along the way, while taking advantage of every nook and cranny for their needs.
You know that the wasps are about as you hear their constant buzzing as they make their nests and secure their prey in the nests. Most of the time you don’t really see what’s happening, as the nest are built into crevices and even our wind chimes, but this year, the wasps have found a very interesting home for their hapless victims. As I discussed in this story, our veranda project is slowly coming to fruition and part of that involved putting polycarbonate sheeting at two ends of our veranda. Little did we realise that the open ends at the bottom of the sheets would inspire insect and other bugs to consider the cavities as potential homes and nests. For most, that wasn’t a good idea, given that the sheets receive the full sun during the mornings and must become stiflingly hot, but the wasps appear to have been smarter. Now for those that are squeamish, I suggest that you stop here; what follows may cause nightmares and whatever else.
At least one wasp, as I have no idea if they work in groups, has taken to one sheet in an ingenious if not macabre way (by most people’s standards) and used one flute that is in the shade all day as the perfect hollow for it’s nest. Initially I had no idea how the wasp had managed to go up the entire length of the sheet to start it’s nest building from the very top, but then I noticed that I’d installed the sheet with a gap at the top that allowed it to work from the top down. How the hatchings are supposed to get out, especially if the bottom ones develop first is anyone’s guess. The previous photograph shows the bigger picture of what follows and the following photographs reveal what that odd line of shapes is all about. I counted 14 spiders entombed in the flute of the polycarbonate sheet and even though it’s out of the direct sun, you can see that there’s still heat building, up as the moisture reveals.
I had a look the next day and things are clearly afoot in the catacomb, and not in a good way. While the flute in the polycarbonate might have been a stroke of genius for the the wasp, or a touch of laziness, the environment has taken hold and all that effort may have been for nought. What’s happening is that the moisture is building up inside the flute and that’s going to start a process of decay and liquefaction, and rather rapidly if what’s happened in one or two days is any indication. But what’s also happening is that fungus appears to be taking hold, if the filaments in the second photograph are any indication. This may well end up being a graveyard for both spiders and wasps.
It’s a pretty savage insect world out there and while people think that spiders are the stuff of nightmares, I’m sure that spiders must think that wasps are the stuff of their nightmares. Given that each spider is still alive and now impregnated with wasp eggs that will eventually hatch and have a ready source of food, it’s a fairly ghastly way to go. The scale of the nest is also very impressive and it’s the first time that I’ve been able to actually see the goings on inside a nest. Whether things go well for the wasp eggs and subsequent hatchlings is another thing, they too may yet succumb to the moisture, heat and whatever else may happen.