|Workers tend their brood in the aftermath of bear predation.|
The suspect bear who hauled off the drowned deer has a taste for yellowjackets.
Its diggings have become regular features of Hendrick's flume, and this nest was ravaged two nights ago.
The bear didn't clean its plate, and in fact the queen still reigns, so I snapped a few photos.
The workers were too distracted to have at me.
I went back today to see if the bear cleaned its plate and to collect a yellowjacket for identification.
|The remains of the paper nest in the earth cavity.|
They buzzed me when I tried to get one of them into a vial, and when another one bombed into my hair the codger humped down the trail with remarkable agility.
There are at least 18 species of yellowjackets in the US according to a USDA manual, and my photos match up well with the diagrams of the California yellowjacket (Vespula sulphurea) [NB: 9/23/2012 -- based on Katie's comment (see below) I have examined more photos and think that the gatric pattern most closely matches that of Vespula vulgaris].
This species nests underground, and is a good citizen that feeds on insects and disdains picnics.
Next year's generation hinges on the survival of the overwintering queen, since she alone survives the winter. When she is ready, she'll disappear in a rotten stump or under loose bark. The workers will become comatose and die with the shortening days.
A few weeks ago the redhead reported that yellowjackets took great umbrage with Fred, who had the temerity to drop his stick next to their nest.
They buzzed him and dived into his fur, but he didn't seem to fathom what was happening.
His reaction was to shake them out of his fur, and if they succeeded in stinging him he showed no ill effects. They certainly didn't dampen his appetite.
Setting a camera trap at any social insect nest will require patience, but will eventually yield some interesting pictures or footage of predation-in-action.
I'm leaving that project to the younger camera trappers out there.
Akre, R.D., et al. 1981. The Yellowjackets of America North of Mexico. USDA Agriculture Handbook No. 552, 102 pp.