Every year I put swarm traps in the trees and place bait hives around the property. Most years I catch two or three swarms, sometimes more. So far this season I’ve captured two, both swarms from my own hives.
But yesterday I happened to notice other things in my traps. The lizard below is apparently living in a bait have, and he seems to like the idea of a porch. He pops out to sleep in the sun and ponder life. Kinda cute. It was a blistery hot day when I first saw him, but the bait hive is partially shaded and low to the ground. A giant ant hill is a few feet away, probably a good place to catch a meal.
What lurks within?
On my way back to the house, I spotted insects coming and going from one of the tree-mounted swarm traps. At first I thought they were honey bees, but their flight pattern was different, more erratic. When I enlarged the photos, I could see they were aerial yellowjackets.
The two crisscross nails at the entrance keep out birds and small mammals. But behind them, you can clearly see the striated nest covering. This type of yellowjacket, in the genus Dolichovespula, is closely related to the bald-faced hornet. These insects collect and chew wood fibers, add a dollop of saliva, and make a paste that they use for building a multilayered nest cover. Inside the protective cover, which is about the size and shape of a large melon, circular combs hold the yellowjacket brood.
Although I’ve seen yellowjackets build their nests in protected spots, I’ve never seen one in such a tight space. It reminds me of sailing ship built in a bottle. It will be interesting to see how large it gets before I have to take it down. Once the summer dearth hits, this colony could cause a lot of trouble for my honey bees.
Honey Bee Suite