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Sunday, March 20, 2011
Personally Crafted Paper
I've been wanting to try my hand at making paper for years, but haven't gotten around to it yet, really. I made a lame attempt once a long time ago. But someone else does it every year. Do you see the paper in the picture?
It's that gray mess caught on the bush, under the tree. Not only was someone littering, but as you can see, they were also trespassing.
The culprit is the bald-faced hornet. This is a fairly ordinary hornet nest. The thing that is odd is that it's so low to the ground. And it wasn't originally higher up, but fell down during some storm. It's firmly anchored to that honeysuckle shrub. I wasn't in any danger by checking it out. The bald-faced hornets were all gone for the winter, abandoning all their work of the previous year. Only fertilized queens live over the winter, and they burrow underground to survive. Believe me, if it were summer, I wouldn't go anywhere near the nest. These are aggressive insects, and will attack and sting without much provocation.
Technically, they are a wasp, the Dolichovespula maculata, but due to their nasty personalities, they are usually called hornets here in the US.
Each spring the queens emerge, lay their eggs, and feed the larvae. When workers mature, they continue to expand the nest. They add layers of paper made from chewed up wood fiber and saliva. The surface is actually quite beautiful in a natural sort of way.
This nest was about a foot across, an average size. I turned it up, hoping to show you the cells inside, but it was too old and "blown out," all the internal structure was gone.