The Bug Geek

Insects. Doing Science. Other awesome, geeky stuff.

An entomologist’s internal dialogue, or, “how I almost fell off a cliff”

Wow, this is really steep.  I’m very high up.  Good thing I don’t mind heights.   Who’m I kidding, I’m terrified.

I think I will sit a for spell and wait for my hands to stop shaking. Photo op!



Ok, that’s better.  Oh look, cliff swallow nests!

Cool!  At least the swallows aren’t  freaking out at me the way those rough-legged hawks are.  Those hawks are MAD.   I hope they don’t switch from screaming at me to dive-bombing me.  That would be bad.

Hey, what’s that?

Yay!  A wasp nest!  Exactly why I’m risking my life climbing around on this stupid cliff!  They had to be nesting SOMEwhere.

Ok, this is probably close enough.  It’s not very big.  It’s shaped like an apple, and about the same size as one.  I wonder how many wasps could live in there?

It’s been almost 20 minutes.  No one’s gone in and no one’s come out.  It’s probably empty, right?  Like, pretty much definitely for sure no wasps are living in there, right?

I think I’ll poke it with my net handle.

*teensy poke*

*bigger poke*


Ha.  I knew it.  No one home.  I’d sure like to take that nest back with me.  I wonder if I can dislodge it?

*JABPOKERAM*  Boy, it’s really glued on there good.


Oh sh-t.


*swats at emerging wasps with net before hurtling downhill*

Is one in my net?   Yep, it’s in there.

Oh crap, there’s more.  RUN!  DON’T FALL!


I think they’re gone.  Well that was not too bright, now was it?  Phew.

*inspects net*   Well, at least I got a voucher specimen.


25 responses to “An entomologist’s internal dialogue, or, “how I almost fell off a cliff”

  1. Warren July 22, 2010 at 3:39 PM

    Epic 🙂

  2. Rachel July 22, 2010 at 5:09 PM

    I agree with Warren. LMAO!

  3. Katie July 22, 2010 at 5:25 PM

    LOL! Somehow your blog name seems very appropriate here. Thanks for sharing your adventures. So, what species is this?

    • TGIQ July 22, 2010 at 9:14 PM

      I beleive it’s Dolichovespula norwegica , but what I’ve read makes me wonder if I’ve got an unusual nest here…they’re often subterranian, or on low shrubs; I don’t think they regularly occur 80 feets off the ground…

  4. Steve Willson July 22, 2010 at 9:19 PM

    That’s really a cute little nest. It’s a shame you couldn’t get it as a souvenir.

    • TGIQ July 22, 2010 at 9:47 PM

      Steve, I don’t think I learned my lesson because I’m already trying to figure out a way I could go back and get it. Maybe wait for a really cold evening? Bring a plastic bag, cover it and tie it off at the top? Dislodge and put it in my freezer? Whaddaya think?

      • Steve Willson July 23, 2010 at 8:26 PM

        That might work. I bet if you squished one of those foam ear plugs and let it expand in the entrance hole, you’d have the whole bunch contained. Whatever method you choose, I can tell you from experience with other types of wasp nests that you don’t want to slip in the middle of the procedure.

        • TGIQ July 26, 2010 at 9:43 AM

          While I DO have foam earplugs here, the exit/entry hole is just a little too big for that (otherwise nifty) trick to be effective.

          • Katie July 26, 2010 at 10:04 AM

            When removing (per request of museum maintenance) and deciding to display this find for the public, I found these steps to work for me:

            1) wait until the evening
            2) use a wad of tissue to plug the entrance
            3) have scissors and display case at the ready
            4) cut and promptly get case into the freezer for 15 minutes.

            Of course, if you want to kill the hive right away, then simply keep them in the freezer and you’ll have more voucher specimens than you know what to do with.

            • TGIQ July 26, 2010 at 10:09 AM

              That’s basically my plan now …except “evening” doesn’t count for too much because we have sun all day…I’m going to wait for a cool, dry day (a rarity here it seems…cool = grey skies = rain) and give it a go.

              • Katie July 26, 2010 at 10:17 AM

                What latitude are you? I’ve been pretty far north during the middle of summer, too. You actually don’t want it to be pitch black, because then you can’t see without use of flashlight (not a good idea for several reasons). I believe most animals have a daily rhythm, so just try to catch them when they’re at their quietest.

                • TGIQ July 26, 2010 at 10:33 AM

                  I’m at about 67.82N…the darkest it gets this time of year is about the the equivalent of early dusk in the south. Most of the hyms here are at their peak between 11am and 6pm, but as long as the temperatures permit it, they are foraging 24 hours a day.

      • Tim Eisele July 26, 2010 at 7:26 AM

        If you have access to a “bug baffler” shirt, they are actually very effective as protection against stinging insects – I use mine for working beehives. With one of those, you can just put on a pair of leather gloves, and then go right up to the nest and pick it like a fruit, no sweat.

        And when you aren’t going after wasp nests, they work great for keeping off the mosquitos and black flies.

        • TGIQ July 26, 2010 at 9:45 AM

          Tim, thanks for the idea (and the comment!) I do have a “Bug Shirt” (, and I just spent few minutes googling to see if it is effective for use against bees/wasps; the manufacturers haven’t tested it. Not sure that I’m quite willing to take the risk, but as an extra precaution, a great idea!

  5. Amber Coakley July 22, 2010 at 10:22 PM

    Ha! Made me laugh. Glad you didn’t hurt yourself.

    I’ve run from wasps before after dislodging paper wasp nests from bluebird boxes. Your wasp nest is slightly larger. 😉

  6. mthew July 30, 2010 at 1:24 PM

    Most of us wait for winter before going anywhere near those suckers.

  7. Pingback: Forgotten Photo Friday: Aculepeira carbonarioides (Araneidae) « Fall To Climb

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