This weekend was so hot that I was in the uncharacteristic position of being able to pack a picnic rug rather than a mac for an outdoor performance by the Disco Symphonic Spectacular. Just as the orchestra was warming-up I noticed that something just as spectacular was happening at grass roots level. The earth was moving, and the party hadn’t even started yet.
I was flip-flopping across the baked earth to the bar when I noticed wasps buzzing around my ankles. Crouching down I spotted a yellow wasp kicking soil with its tiny legs. Casting an eye over the surrounding area between the bar and the ice-cream van I noticed that there were holes an inch wide dotted sporadically in the dusty sand. Dozens of wasps were burrowing into the earth, creating a miniature heap of sand and a small solitary hole into which they would disappear.
Festival goers were walking over the wasps and their funny little holes, unaware of the eco-system which lay beneath.
There are over 130 species of ground digger wasps and they are pretty harmless to humans. In summer, ground digger wasps make a hole in dry soil in which to lay their eggs. The holes are then stocked with live, paralyzed insects and the compartment sealed like an Egyptian tomb. When the earth warms in the spring the wasp larvae hatch, munch on the paralyzed insects, then emerge from the holes as adults and immediately start looking for a good nest site in which they can build their home. During the summer, a female might build as many as six nests, each with several compartments for her eggs.
Ground digger wasps present little harms to humans and will only sting if provoked. Not wanting to find out I headed off to the bar and must have trod on an ants nest because my flip flops were covered in black ants by the time I returned to the picnic area with some refreshments.