Wasps & Armadillo

A recent surprise find at Camp Salmen Nature Park was an underground nest of Southern Yellow Jackets (Vespula squamosa), a type of wasp also commonly called a ground hornet. They are known to deal painful stings to those who may blunder too close to their nests. 

 

The entrance to the nest was discovered inside a small depression camouflaged by grass and leaf litter. I returned the next day prepared to do battle, armed with a can of wasp spray. To my surprise the underground nest had turned into a neatly excavated hole, it looked like it was dug out with a shovel. Then I saw many shreds of honeycombed paper nest scattered on the ground around it.

 

My best guess is an alert, insectivorous Nine Banded Armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus) beat me to the nest. Good for him (or her) for he/she enjoyed a feast of tender, juicy wasp larva and probably did not mind the storm of furious wasps ineffectively hammering away at his/her armor. Good for me because I got to avoid having to deal with the thing.

 

I examined the hole. It was large, about the volume of a volleyball — or an armadillo. In fact, the walls were smooth from the beast doing its work. There wasn’t much dirt heaped around the hole because it had probably been mostly full of the paper nest. I theorize the nest had been started in a void-space under a tree root and the wasps slowly took away more dirt as they expanded it. The armadillo had burrowed right into it, pulling out hunks of nest, consuming the larva on the ground outside then diving back in to excavate more.

 

 

The wasps were still drifting in and out of the empty hole in a business-as-usual fashion. The armadillo hadn’t killed any of them, only their young. Now they were just a disappointed and disconnected swarm. I wondered if they were going to try to rebuild the nest here or elsewhere but decided to take no chances and hosed the hole with the spray; the bottom was littered with dead wasps later. Good riddance to them and hooray for our brave and helpful little Mexican friend, the Armadillo.

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