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Horror in the Milkweed Patch

Anne walks out the front door into our yard to look for caterpillars on the milkweed. She has seen some Monarch butterflies recently and thought they may have laid eggs on the plants. A few minutes later, she knocks on the dining room window and tells me to come quick with my camera.

As I approach the milkweed plants, I find Anne bent over holding a milkweed plant aside. She points to the stem of one of the plants where there is a paper wasp eating a monarch caterpillar. I had to act quickly to capture the image on my camera because the wasp was nearly finished with eating the caterpillar.

Evidently, paper wasps have an appetite for caterpillars. These insects seek butterfly and moth larvae and when it finds a caterpillar, it chews it in half with its powerful mandibles before eating it.

As I photograph the demise of the caterpillar, Anne spots the beginning of a paper wasp nest hanging from the eave of the neighbor’s house. There is a paper wasp on it building the papery nest. They are able to do this by stripping wood from fence posts, trees and other woody objects, chewing the wood and mixing it with saliva. The wasps create cells in which the queen lays its eggs. The wasp larvae are fed and watched over by workers until the larvae pupate.

Anne was horrified to find wasps eating her caterpillars, but these insects kill a large number of pests as well. There are many insecticides on the market that shoots a stream of poison that kills wasps, but we prefer to be vigilant and knock down the hive just as the wasps are starting to build it.

Anne goes out in the evening with a broom and swooshes the hive down and makes a mad dash into our home. Hopefully, the wasps will rebuild their hive elsewhere.

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