HOLY CRAP! Graduate school is really crazy. I'm on borrowed seconds just being here! In fact, amidst the TON of reading, meetings, fixing a crashed (yet new) computer, classes, new-hire logistics, and studying, I have yet to molest any insects.
Check that. Yesterday, while passing in front of Cordley Hall, I found a yellow jacket nest on the sidewalk (Vespula or Dolichovespula are the genera). As large as a watermelon and lighter than a dinner plate, the pliable nest boasted a concentric pattern of tan and dark brown woven into layers, like a croissant. Exquisitely beautiful. The pliable pulp usually doesn't last the winter, unfortunately, and tends to break down. Queens overwinter, other adults typically die.
I lifted the top off like a tupee to view five or six tiers of larval chambers inside, which looked a lot like stacks of honeycomb without the honey. Several lovely ladies, chilled and slow-moving, sat unmoved. We go way back, they and I. Lots of stingings during lots of wildlife jobs. They are all-powerful, and can even make grown men scream like a woman, swatting and running, crashing haphazardly through forests, abandoning all sense and decorum (not to mention expensive equipment). One turned from her protective perch on the top tier to face me. Our eyes met, and I swear she growled.
I wanted to take the nest home, freeze it/them, and use it for decor... But instead I placed it beneath the benevolent bows of a nearby Western red cedar and covered it with loose leaves and branches. Who knows, maybe they'll survive the winter if they stay warm and dry. After five years in the low desert, it's nice to see some of my old friends again. :)