The Hornet Nest
The order hymenoptera covers Bees, Wasps/Hornets and Ants.
It will be remembered that the early scooters seen on the streets of India were Vespas and Lambrettas. The Vespas (Wasps) were obviously named from the Italian word for Wasps as the shape of the rear of the Vespa was similar to the shape of the rounded “gasters” - the section of the abdomen behind the wasp waist. Mahesh (who I consider an AMPRO - Bangalore Walkers for an amateur becoming a professional) - an excellent photographer and I were walking along the path in Lalbagh, below the bund which holds up the lake. We were heading eastwards when we came across a marvel of natural engineering attached to a Ficus benjamina tree (Java Fig tree).
What stopped us in our tracks was the nest of a Wasp/Vespa – Hornet. This nest is made up of paper produced by the Wasp using its mandibles to chew the bark of trees. The nest, about 15 inches in length, was attached to a branch of the Fig tree and has the appearance of a blown up inverted pear. The nest is founded by a fertilized female – the Queen who builds the first series of cells in combs. Later as the colony grows new combs are added and an envelope is built around the cell layers till the nest is entirely covered except for entry holes.
Mahesh has taken out some fine photographs with exceptional clarity of the nest which illustrate this article. The surface of the nest is beautiful having been made out of paper and giving the impression of embossing of shells on the surface of the paper. The whole nest is suspended from a stem of a branch and is able to move loosely with the stem. The structure is an engineering marvel. The nest can hold a community of upto a few hundred hornets. The name “hornet” is derived from the wasps' habit of making aerial nests like true hornets rather than subterranean nests.
Wasps comprise an enormously varied assembly of insects ranging from insect egg parasite to large predatory wasps known as tarantula hawks and cicada killers. Most wasps feed their young on insects such as caterpillars but some have become vegetarians and collect pollen to be fed to their larvae. Bees make their nests (honeycombs) out of wax, most wasps make their nests out of paper and wasps known as “mud daubers” make mud nests on the under surfaces of bridges, eaves of houses and other protected areas.
We would once again draw the Walkers attention to the wonderful structure of the hornet’s nest as well as the surface finish. I doubt that Homo Sapiens given the bark of trees, as a starting point, could create anything like a hornet’s nest which hornets unfailingly do whenever they start a new colony around a Queen.
The day after Mahesh’s wonderful photographs of the Hornet’s nests were taken, we were shocked to see the nest was no longer there, thus adding to our obituary columns. Read Obituary

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