Wasp, Hornet or Bee’s Nest – Which Is It ?

The wife and I were returning Home from a walk … somewhere. I don’t remember where from, as the sight of this, negated anything else from my mind.

We’ve all seen them before, hanging from trees, or the eaves of some unfortunate family’s Home. But I’d never seen one this close to the ground, so easy to reach, and so big !

wasp nest vertical

As we drove Home with our prize in the trunk, the wife asked the question, “It wouldn’t be occupied, would it ?” Considering the time of year, I knew any remaining occupants would be dead anyway, so I figured we’d survive the trip Home with the nest in the hatchback. But what I didn’t know was … exactly whose nest was it ? The question of bee, hornet, or wasp has baffled me for many years, and I hate being baffled.

So, after much research and questions asked, this is how it goes. There is only one hornet in the Western Hemisphere (North, Central, and South America). That’s the (unintentionally introduced) European hornet. Your chances of seeing one in Canada are rather remote as we’re just a tad too cold for them. But over the last few years, a few have been spotted. They’re hard to miss as they’re huge in comparison to our regular wasps. Up to two inches long they are. However, their sting is not proportionally more severe, nor is their demeanor. So, that’s it for the hornets. Only one, and it’s not even native.

We all know the bees, and their plight. Or, at least we know the situation of the honeybee (which isn’t native to the Americas, by the way). However, Ontario hosts over 820 different species of bees, most under the catagory “solitary”. I have erected a “solitary bee” nesting box the Wife gave me for Christmas a few years back. The bees are using it. Unlike the ineffective “butterfly boxes”, these bee boxes really do work. They’re cheap to buy, or easy to build for nuthin’, and they’ll do alot to help with the pollination of the flowers and vegetables in your own gardens.

Considering the tragic decline of the honeybee, keep the solitary bees in mind, as they pollinate flowers too. Albeit, not as impressively as the honeybee, but they just might be all we have left if things get any worse.

Wasps are simpler. There are at least 9 wasps in Canada (and dozens of sub-species), the majority of which you’d never notice. The Brachonids, Chalcids, Pelecinids, and Jewel wasps are mostly parasites of other insects, and are considered beneficial for that reason. The Cuckoo wasps parasitizes its own kind. Then there’s the rather obviously named Gall wasp which produce galls, those big lumps you see in the stems of some wild meadow plants.

The Wood wasp bores into, mostly dead or dying wood, to place their eggs (and a fungus) inside. They reduce the quality of the lumber, hence are considered a pest species.

I once witnessed a spider wasp entice a spider by plucking the web with its foot, making it appear an insect was caught in it. When the spider came out to grasp it’s prize, the wasp leapt upon it, and appeared to be trying to sting it. The spider was no light-weight contender and was putting up one helluva fight. As the wasp and her victim flew and fought their way across my backyard, the wasp crashed a number of times and the fight continued on the ground until the wasp managed to secure and lift, the spider again. This went on and on as the wasp gained altitude after each crash and fight. By the time she got to the eight foot fence around the South side of my yard, she pretty-much had the spider under control and cleared the fence. Despite being almost as fascinated by what I’d witnessed, as I was p!ssed off that I didn’t have my camera, I kinda felt for the spider as it was carried off to a most unsavoury fate.

But, I still gotta love the Mud-dauber wasps. They do a delightful little dance about the wet, muddy section of our Patience Pond while collecting mud to build their single nests.

That’s pretty-much it. No native hornets, less than 20 wasps, and over 800 bees. So, who occupied the nest the Wife and I found on the roadside ? Not even the experts can tell me for certain. Their best guess is either yellow jackets, or bald faced wasps.


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