Cryptopod: Home Sweet Hornet-Made Home


I went for butterflies, and came back with some sort of hornet, probably. Or mebbe a beehive. Dunno. All I know is, it was a big blob in the tree branches that got my attention.

Image shows a tree-top with a blob of something hanging in the branches.

Cryptopod I

Up til then, I hadn’t had much luck. I’d come over to the Seattle Times building because it’s close, and there’s a park, and I’ve had good luck seeing butterflies there in the past. I yearned for butterflies. There haven’t been that many in the places I’ve been this summer. Nor dragonflies, although the backyard is full of them. They don’t land on my porch railings often. When they do, it’s always when I don’t have a suitable camera handy. So I popped down to the park when I needed walkies, and had a lovely encounter with a fluttery white butterfly that zipped back and forth past me for a while, but didn’t ever land. No photographs, but plenty of happy.

On the way back, I noticed a great blob hanging in the branches of one of the trees, and decided to investigate.

Closer image of the nest, showing the swirly-lumpy structure and the lighter and darker brown streaks.

Cryptopod II

How beautiful! And no, I wasn’t worried about getting stung – the thing was up fairly high, and there weren’t many little critters flying about. I figured if I didn’t poke ‘em with a stick, we’d be copacetic. And we were. The few crawling about on the nest didn’t mind my presence a bit.

Close-up image showing the full nest with crypotopds on it. They're hard to see, but they don't appear to be yellowjackets.

Cryptopod III

I love the patterning – it reminds me just a bit of liesegang banding, although this is clearly life-made. From what little reading I did on the subject, it appears that this is made of chewed-up bark. But we’ll know more if one of you are able to identify these critters.

Another full view showing a few critters on the nest.

Cryptopod IV

Because of the distance and the branches in the way, it was hard to get any shots of these house-building cryptopods. And it was really hard to see from a distance – I couldn’t even tell until I looked at the zoom that there were any there. But I got a couple of shots that may aid in identification.

Image shows the hive-makers haging out on the hive. They are fairly large, black, with a white band across their heads and what look like white patches on their butts.

Cryptopod V

As far as I can tell from a desultory internet search, this kind of hive looks like a yellow jacket hive. But these don’t look like yellow jackets – too much black and no yellow.

Another close-up of the hornets or wasps or whatevers.

Cryptopod VI

I have no idea. But I like them better than the bee that’s been buzzing round my place at least once a day, all curious about what I’m doing and wanting to get all up in my business. I had to eventually whap it with a duster dealie to make it go away. The duster dealie doesn’t hurt it a bit, just tells it to get gone. And it does – until the following day. These guys, on the other hand, were very mellow, and had a “we’ll stay up here as long as you stay down there” philosophy.

Image shows the nest surrounded by branches.

Cryptopod VII

I took one last, lingering look, and then headed back toward home. I didn’t get far, though, before running in to a herd of bright-orange butterflies dining on clover flowers. They were completely adorable and delayed my departure by some time.

Image shows a clover flower with a small orange butterfly on it.

Cryptopod VIII

I love these moments in urban nature.

Comments

    • Lithified Detritus says

      Strictly speaking, these are wasps, not hornets. Common names often lead to confusion. /pedant

  1. brilang says

    I have discovered similar nests at my house this summer. One in the back yard in a spruce tree was a hornets nest. I discovered it when I was trimming branches off the tree and heard some buzzing from a nearby branch. As I shook nearby branches, more came out to investigate. I gave up trimming that tree and called the exterminator.

    A couple of weeks later, we found another nest, right outside our front door that we use every single day, and it was apparently a wasps nest (exterminator told us). It was the size of a beach ball! How we missed seeing it, we’ll never know. We left it in the Rhododendron tree after the exterminator sprayed, but it fell out within a few weeks.

    Not my favorite types of insects!

  2. rq says

    I’ll take bees over wasps or hornets any day of the week, month, or year. Anything that can sting repeatedly is well worth my wide detour. *shudder*

  3. Trebuchet says

    My first thought was “paper wasp” but Wiki tells me they’re rather different and build open, rather than enclosed nests. Bald-faced hornet it is, then.

    I was about to add that that’s a clover blossom the butterfly is on but then I went back and saw you are way ahead of me. Doh! Must be a tiny little guy.

  4. says

    Everybody’s beaten me to it, but yes, bald-faced hornet and some kind of skipper. And for what it’s worth I’ll guess your fluttery white butterfly was a cabbage white. Lovely bugs, the whole lot of them!

  5. tmscott says

    Bald faced hornets for sure. Not my favorites either, but at least they’re out of reach.

    Off topic, how do I reach you via email? I have some pictures of a large alien stone in my neighborhood that you might be interested in.

    Cheers,
    Tom

  6. A Masked Avenger says

    Heh–I was going to say “white-faced hornet,” but I didn’t expect to be right. Takes me back to childhood…

    Last time I dealt with those beasties was as a kid, hanging around the stable. They built nests close to the horse barns, so they were regularly buzzing around, but they were awfully aggressive and mean. There were certain barns I avoided because they were so busy there, probably because the nest was up in the rafters.

  7. machintelligence says

    I have a story to relate about wasps on a farm. My brother and I (both under 10 years old) were playing in the farm blacksmith shop and noticed an old wood and leather bellows suspended from the rafters with a chain hanging down. We jumped up and grabbed the iron ring on the end of the chain to operate the bellows and were greeted with a loud buzz. A cloud of wasps flew out and then left the shop through the wagon door. We, meanwhile exited by the man door on the other wall — no stings, but we gave the shop wide clearance for a few days.