Yesterday I was coming down the hill after checking my hives when I saw something I hadn’t noticed before. It was right in the middle of the trail and from a distance looked like a compact pile of wood shavings. Up close, however, I saw that is was a large wasp nest. It was attended by hundreds–maybe thousands–of wasps that looked like yellowjackets. As soon as I got too close I got stung in the back, just below the elastic on my bee jacket. Man, those guys hurt!
I went down to the house, changed into my complete bee suit, and grabbed my camera. What had landed in the trail was actually a small dead branch from a big-leaf maple. The branch was covered in moss where the nest had been attached. The nest had broken into pieces from the fall but you could still see layers of parallel comb filled with brood.
When I turned over the pancake of comb with my hive tool a zillion of those guys bombarded me. In all the years I have photographed honey bees I have never had them coat my hands, the camera, the strap–everything. It was creepy. When I looked through the view finder all I could see were giant black silhouettes moving across the lens. I managed to squeeze out a few photos–mostly out of focus–but at least you get the idea.
I’m still not sure what the outer layers of nest were made from but I will take a closer look when I gather the courage to go up there again. It was kind of scary. I actually don’t know if they are yellowjackets or some other type of wasp. They only thing I know for sure is they have been attacking my honey bee hives, they are yellow and black striped, and they sting. And, yes, they live in trees.