Yesterday, while filling the feeder on the front porch with birdseed, we discovered the beginnings of some wasps' nests on the awning. One was hanging right above the feeder and was about the size of an egg. Because one does not necessarily care for a huge wasps' nest on one's front porch, I took a razor blade and sliced it gently off of the awning. I picked it up gently and observed it, amazed at the detail and fragility of its construction. It was made of a thin gray paper--I cannot even conceive of how the insects produce this stuff but I am sure it is known. I will have to consult my E.O. Wilson tome on insect societies. There was a thin, one-layer outer shell with a quarter-sized opening in the bottom. Peering in, I saw a small grid of combs. There were maybe 15 hexagonal openings. At first I thought the nest was empty, but when I tore away the outer layer to get a better look at the inner details, I saw that, indeed, each depression held a tiny life form, a small white grain that was probably only days old. Not quite egg, not quite larva.
As I was contemplating the tiny miracle of nature in my hand, the structure's architect (presumably) came flying onto the scene. J caused me to panic, urging me to destroy the thing, lest its owner discover it in my possession and decide to attack. Not quite thinking, or perhaps not wanting to think, I let it fall to the ground and crushed it quickly under my shoe. Apparently not yet aware of its flattened nursery lying on the pavement, the adult wasp frantically circled the wisps of nest still left on the awning, bewildered. How long had it taken this creature to so carefully build the structure which I had just carelessly destroyed in an instant? Would it take time to grieve for its lost offspring or just begin building again? The sight of that poor animal circling the remains of its labor of love almost brought me to tears.
There is another beginning of a nest in the other corner of the awning. We did not cut it down yesterday, as it was being carefully guarded by another adult. I know I cannot leave it where it is, it's just not practical. But I can't bring myself to be the destroyer again just yet.