Tasmania – German Wasp

2014 February 22

While rummaging around under the bark of various rotting Tasmanian stumps, I found several of these large queen wasps hibernating (but only photographed this one)

I aways found them singly, never in groups, and they were obviously waiting for spring so that they could go out and establish new nests[1]. She’s pretty clearly a queen wasp, and since wasps like this aren’t native to Australia, she must be one of the two accidentally imported species – most likely the German Wasp, Vespula germanica.

This is the first time I’ve seen a queen wasp while she was still hibernating, and it is interesting the way she stows her wings, tucked behind her legs and under her abdomen.

This is the way that the wings of immature wasps and bees are held just before they emerge from their nest cells as adults, so she has basically taken up the wasp version of the “fetal position”.

Here’s her face, so you can see her mandibles.

It wasn’t actually that cold at the time (it was in the 50s fahrenheit, and the sun was shining), so in the course of photographing she gradually started to wake up. Here she is giving me a dirty look.

And here she is with the wings fully unfurled, although she was still to chilled to fly, or even walk around much.

She was pretty big, here she is with the tip of my index finger for scale.

These are a fairly typical wasp as far as habits, with the adults preying on various sources of meat and protein for their grubs in the nest, while they get by on plant nectar and honeydew themselves. Given how many of the queens I casually stumbled across, Tasmania must be fairly lousy with them in the summer.

[1] She would have gone off somewhere and built a nest out of paper that she made by chewing up dead wood, laid a few eggs in it, fed her hatchlings caterpillars, and then when they finally emerged as adults she’d have handed over all the work to them, and spent the rest of her life being waited on hand and foot while she laid more eggs. And given how cold it doesn’t get in Tasmania, I’ve heard that there is a small possibilty that if she found a warm-enough nest location (like, say, somebody’s attic), she might have lived for longer than just one year, while the nest got bigger, and bigger, and bigger. . .

2 Responses
  1. February 22, 2014

    Tim .. I just found your site. Quite interesting. I have been interested in forms of Arthropoda since I was a very wee sprout: many, many moons ago. So this is right up my interest ally.

    But I have a very non-bug question: Your name? I know a Tim Eisele, who writes for the Wisconsin Outdoor News, member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America and has a brother (who is also a long-time friend) named, Ted, who lives in Boise, ID. I have pretty well determined that you are NOT the ‘Tim Eisele’ I know, but am wondering if you are related.

    Odd to find two fellas with the same name in states side-by-side, writing about ‘outdoor things’. Wicked cool.

    I will be looking in regularly to see what you’re pulling from the dirt, trees and air to put on this site. And I really don’t mind having things ‘crawling in my hair’ … it just means I’m either or have recently, been having a good time.

    Bug On! 🙂

  2. February 22, 2014

    I’ve never met the Tim Eisele you know, but we’ve corresponded (I got a couple of emails that were intended for him some years ago, and looked him up so I could forward them to him). As far as I know, we are at most distantly related (“Eisele” and its variants is basically German for “Smith”, so there are a lot of independent family lines), but it is kind of amusing that we ended up so close together, and writing about sufficiently similar things that we could get confused with each other.

    Anyway, glad you like what you’re finding here!

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