Licking bees and pulping trees: The reign of a wasp queen – Kenny Coogan

Licking bees and pulping trees: The reign of a wasp queen – Kenny Coogan


As the April sun rises
on a pile of firewood, something royal stirs inside. This wasp queen is one of thousands
who mated in late autumn and hibernated through the winter. Now she emerges into the spring air
to begin her reign. Most of her sisters weren’t so lucky. While hibernating in compost piles
and underground burrows, many sleeping queens
were eaten by spiders. Warm winters caused by climate change
led other queens to emerge early, only to find there was no available food. And some queens that survived the winter
fell victim to the threats of spring, such as carnivorous plants, birds,
and manmade pesticides. Our queen is the lone survivor
of her old hive, and now, she must become
the foundress of a new one. But first, breakfast. The queen heads for a citrus grove
full of honeybee hives. The bees can be dangerous if provoked, but right now they’re paralyzed
by the morning cold. Their hairy bodies are dripping
with sugar water from an earlier feeding, and the resourceful queen
licks them for a morning snack. Newly energized, our queen searches
for a safe nesting area. This tree hollow, safe from rain, wind,
and predators, is ideal. She chews the surrounding wood
and plant fibers to make a paper-like pulp. Then she builds around 50 brood cells
that comprise the beginning of her nest. Using sperm stored from last fall, the queen lays a fertilized egg
into each cell, producing as many as 12 in 20 minutes. Within a week,
these will hatch into female larva. But until then, the queen must hunt down
smaller insects to feed her brood, all while expanding the hive, laying eggs,
and defending against intruders. Fortunately, our queen is well prepared. Unlike bees, wasps can sting as many times
as they need to. With such a busy schedule,
the queen barely has time to feed herself. Luckily, she doesn’t have to. When she feeds an insect to her grubs, they digest the bug into a sugary
substance that sustains their mother. By the end of July, these first larva
have matured into adult workers, ready to take on foraging,
building, and defense. The queen can now lay eggs full-time, sustaining herself on her worker’s spoils
and their unfertilized eggs. Although each worker only lives
for roughly 3 weeks, the queen’s continuous egg-laying
swells their ranks. In just one summer,
the nest reaches the size of a basketball, supporting thousands of workers. Such a large population needs to eat, and the nearby garden
provides a veritable buffet. As the swarm descends,
alarmed humans try to swat them. They even fight back with pesticides
that purposefully poison wasps, and inadvertently impact
a wide-range of local wildlife. But the wasps are actually vital
to this ecosystem. Sitting at the top
of the local invertebrate food chain, these insects keep spiders, mites,
and centipedes, in check. Wasps consume crop-eating insects, making them particularly helpful
for farms and gardens. They even pollinate fruits and vegetables, and help winemakers
by biting into their grapes and jump-starting fermentation. This feast continues until autumn,
when the foundress changes course. She begins grooming some eggs
into a new generation of queens, while also laying unfertilized eggs that will mature into reproductive males
called drones. This new crop of queens and males
requires more food. But with summer over,
the usual sources run dry, and the foraging wasps
start taking more aggressive risks. By September,
the hive’s organization deteriorates. Hungry workers no longer clean the nest
and various scavengers move in. Just when it seems
the hive can no longer sustain itself, the fertile queens and their drones
depart in a massive swarm. As the days grow colder,
the workers starve, and our queen
reaches the end of her lifespan. But above, a swarm of reproductive wasps
has successfully mated. The males die off shortly after, but the newly fertilized queens are ready
to find shelter for their long sleep. And this woodpile looks like
the perfect place to spend the winter.

100 thoughts on “Licking bees and pulping trees: The reign of a wasp queen – Kenny Coogan”

  1. This autumn I had like 3 wasps in my room. They stayed in the top corners near my ceiling. I don't hate the wasp so I let them be. I knew they were starving and one day I left out some sweet n sour sauce. They flew into it and drowned 🙁

    I used to despise the wasp and favored the bee. But after doing extensive research on them they now have my sympathy

  2. Its a good thing those wasps are harmless to honeybees

    Because there are other dangerous and more aggresive wasps out there

  3. If they stab over n over then doesn’t the tip get dull??? I’m asking cause it reminds me of how I use new syringes every time. To be safer.

  4. If wasps weren't such jerks I'd love to have them around and spear them.
    But I'm just in my garden admiring the beauty of it along with the little creatures and they have the nerve to chase me around or build their best close by.
    I can't take any chances with bees or wasps 😩. I just mostly back off slowly and walk off.

  5. Everybody be saying UwU until they realize they are the most annoying pieces of … when you're in the wild or just outside.

  6. The bees are dieing so fast that we don't know what is killing them and we aren't doing anything I wish I could do something.

  7. Most of the time humans think of insects in what harmful effects they could do to them. Wasps are often seen as pests. As long as their nests are not in a dangerous location, I couldn't see a need to destroy them considering they helped keep slot of my plants catipillar free. Strange. I see butterfly larva more as pests than the wasps.

  8. Thank you for making this. Most folks' reaction to any wasp is to panic and kill it by any means necessary, but wasps do not go out of their way to be "mean". in fact, there have been several accounts of people who, by putting out food for the wasps that build nests near their homes, have built a friendship with the colony. All you need to do is show them that you're not a threat, and they'll leave you alone. Take some time to learn about wasps. They are just as ecologically important as bees are, potentially even more so.

  9. What to do if the captions won’t load when I watch this offline? I really need captions for educational purposes. Thanks.

  10. Yes, wasps are important. But if they didn’t want me to absolutely destroy them, they shouldn’t have stung me so many times for no reason

  11. I appreciate how the video clearly tried to include how the humans’ presence affects the daily life of the wasp.

  12. i hate the fact that it says that a bee an sting once which is true if they sting us humans but they can sting things like wasps/flys etc as many times as they what

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *