By Mary Reid Barrow
The jury is in and it’s unanimous.
The potter wasp was exonerated, and the bald-faced hornet was charged with unauthorized homebuilding on Joann Moore’s porch.
Joann found the “tidy and beautifully finished” little, roundish nest with a perfect, little entrance hole hanging from her back porch eaves at the North End.
About 3 inches in diameter and a couple of inches high, the tiny nest looked as if it were made of clay and created by a human artist’s hands.
I was pretty convinced the tiny structure was made by a potter wasp, but to make sure, I checked with my entomologist friend, Stuart McCausland , and with my Facebook friends. Most agreed it wasn’t a potter wasp nest but the early stages of a bald-faced hornet nest that could become as big as a basketball by the end of the summer!
“I truly think that’s the beginning of a hornet’s nest,” Devon Kendall wrote on Facebook. “They seem to appear out of nowhere if not paying attention. I had one show up on my porch just this week!”
Then it was easy to see the resemblance. Joann’s perfect little potter wasp creation also looked exactly like a hornet nest miniature!
Hornets create their artistic medium by chewing wood fiber mixed with saliva. Potter wasps create their medium from mud and water. In the beginning each artist works alone to build her dream home, coming and going many times with tiny bits of building material.
The potter wasp completes her small home, lays one egg, stuffs the nest with caterpillars to feed her larva and moves on.
The hornet lays several eggs in her little home. Then each generation of heirs infused with the artistic gene, continues to add on to mom’s original creation until it is large enough for hundreds of talented offspring.
Both wasps are excellent pollinators and good for the garden and both are equally gifted artists. But unlike potter wasps, hornets will aggressively defend their castle, if disturbed, and Joann has to determine how close is too close for a hornet nest to be to her porch door.