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The Scarcity of Wasps

Naturevolume 98page413 (1917) | Download Citation



THE correspondence in NATURE recently (October 12 and 26 and November 16) on the scarcity of wasps during the late summer and autumn of last year raises some interesting and difficult questions. In various parts of Great Britain—from Wigtownshire, Cheshire, and Gloucestershire to Kent—this scarcity has been observed, following on an abundance of queens in spring. The wet and cold conditions prevailing in spring and early summer are suggested as the explanation by most of the writers who contributed observations, and this inclement weather would naturally be accompanied by a scarcity of the insects—caterpillars, greenfly, dipteri, etc.—on which wasps feed their grubs. In a letter to the West Kent Advertiser for November 24, Mr. G. W. Judge suggests that famine rather than cold was responsible for the mortality. Mr. W. F. Denning's definite observation (supra, p. 149) of the dying out of five nests of Vespa vulgaris near Bristol in June is noteworthy in this connection. Mr. A. O. Walker's theory that the queens of last year's spring were largely infertile would be difficult to support by observation. Mr. O. H. Latter1 has suggested that a mid-winter with much “open” weather—such as prevailed in January, 1916—is deadly to queens by tempting them out of safe winter quarters. This cause can, however, scarcely be invoked to explain the paucity of autumn workers after a spring like that of 1916, rich in queens.

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  1. 1

    â“œBees and Waspsâ” (Cambridge University Press), p. 44.

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