Queen wasp in a bottle = new cat toy

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Today we found a wasp on the kitchen ceiling. Seems odd for Oregon in January. I captured it with an empty juice bottle easily.

Common wasp I originally thought it might be a paper wasp, because we recently had an open-comb wasp nest on the far side of the building. But this wasp was not slender and had no reddish markings. It seemed rather large, measuring at least 20mm long. I did a bit of research and have determined that it’s a common wasp (Vespula vulgaris), also known as a European yellowjacket.

It might be a queen wasp looking for a warm place to overwinter before starting a new colony in the spring (or maybe her hibernation spot was recently disturbed somehow). Or it could be a lost male/drone. Not sure how to determine this conclusively. I’d wager that it’s a queen. The wasp we found today does show the characteristic ‘anchor’ mark on the face (the clypeus).

Here are a couple of sites with good wasp photos: Space For Nature Gallery and Katholieke Universiteit Leuven Laboratory of Entomology.

I also found this interesting information, which may apply to the common wasp/yellowjacket: “The varied markings on the face of paper wasp queens show the bearer’s rank. A blotchier face means a higher status.” So, even wasps are driven by their status. The better the ‘anchor’ mark, the higher the rank for common wasps?

Eli the cat very much enjoyed observing the buzzing wasp in the bottle and pushed it around the room a bit. See a few photos below:

Eli with bottle Eli with bottle Eli with bottle

Once the cat become bored and fell asleep, we attempted to feed the wasp some crushed pomegranate flesh/juice, which she seemed to enjoy:

Wasp in a bottle Wasp in a bottle

Then we released her outside into the 40-degree rain (the standard Mid-Willamette Valley winter condition) to fend for herself.

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