Tuesday, August 15, 2006

We have uncooperative wasps

Not that it's horribly important, but the wasps in my backyard fight each other rather fiercely over fallen apples. I might not even mention it, except for the fact that it's sometimes put out that insects that live in colonies are six-legged versions of the Three Musketeers, All for one and one for all!, or however that goes. And if you didn't have a semi-wild backyard with an apple tree, or another nifty, homegrown science lab in which to watch real wasps being themselves, you might not know differently.

But there you have it. We have an apple tree. This tree had a phenomenal number of blooms this year, nearly all of which seemed to get pollinated, which meant we had way too many apples for the tree to support, so we have had apples raining onto the ground all summer as the tree self-culls. Over the weekend I mowed, without removing any fallen apples. Most of the apples were too small and emerged unscathed, but some apples got an edge sliced off by the mower blades. Enter the wasps. They've been having a heyday with whole apples, but cut apples are something else entirely, apparently. Such battles they've had over specific apples! I'm talking leg-to-leg, knockdown, dragout, somersaulting, lunging, very serious battles. There are, mind you, plenty of apples. If the wasps scattered, each could have an apple to himself. But no. Two or three wasps get their little minds (such as they are) set on a specific apple, and the battles go on and on. When finally the losers fly off, the victor divides his time between sucking on the apple (sometimes a slightly fermented apple, ahem), and racing around the perimeter of his apple, like a Doberman on guard dog duty. Head up. Menace in every move. Making it clear he has no intention, none, of allowing access to anyone or anything.

On a semi-comic sidenote, we also have very small ants that like the fallen apples. For reasons I haven't quite figured out, a tiny ant can rout a wasp, even a wasp that has successfully banished brother wasps. It can do it without a fight, usually. It just runs toward the wasp, and the wasp flies frantically away.

In case I haven't mentioned it lately, I love having a semi-wild backyard. There's always something new to notice.

1 comment:

Bookworm said...

I've never gotten close enough to wasps to observe their behavior. It sounds fascinating in a sort of Darwinian, dog-eat-dog way.