Wasps of the Brazilian Amazon Rainforest. Hymenoptera.Sceliphron caementarium.
The Wasps Nest.
Tightly attached to one of the trees that formed an archway across the path to the river, was a large wasps nest. It was a big, bulbous nest, that throbbed with an ominous, humming noise.
Mr Monduco, my neighbour, along with a young nephew, decided its close proximity to the pathway made it particularly dangerous and it had to go. I protested, but they insisted.
They gathered together some twigs and branches and lit a fire below the nest, as I stood on the verandah watching. They then took a long branch each and at arms length and with some trepidation, set light to the nest. Having ensured it was burning, they looked at each other, nodded, threw the branches, turned and ran like hell. They hurtled up the stairs, ran past me at speed and flew into a room and shut the door and window shutters. I, shocked at this unexpected turn of events, quickly followed their example.
They looked scared, but hid it by laying back against sacks of manioc, laughing and teasing each other, and frequently checking through a crack in the window to see what was happening outside.
The nest glowed orange as it burnt and soon the papery construction began to fall apart. The few wasps that hadn’t been trapped inside the nest hung around for only a short while, before flying off.
The next day Monduco pointed to a new nest being built high in one of the tall trees. This one they left alone.
The wasps of the rainforest not only built nests in trees, but also single cells made of clay, which they attached to anything that didn’t move: clothing, shopping bags, apples, door handles etc. They also built long cell structures that when attached together looked like flutes. Some built cells that they piled one above the other.
The colouring of these wasps is usually yellow and black, but I did see one morning a beautiful metallic blue wasp fall from a roof timber. It landed at my feet clutching a black spider.
Wasps, like all insects, are a part of life in the forest. Most are not aggressive, but I did get stung on a number of occasions with varying degrees of swelling and discomfort. Strangely it was the smallest wasps that caused me the most trouble, blowing my hand up like a flaming red, cows udder.
A small price to pay for my extraordinary adventure into their territory.
Thanks to Paul of Garden Guests, I now know the wasp in the first photo is a Mud Dauber Wasp, Sceliphron caementarium. It is a non-aggressive wasp,that builds cells out of clay, either singly, or in a flute-like or pipe-like structure.