Any spheksophobics in the audience?


I’ll be kind and put the photo below the fold. There was a horrifying discovery in Spain.

waspnest

Police in the Spanish city of San Sebastián de la Gomera have cordoned off an abandoned house after finding a 22-foot-long wasp nest.

As ThinkSpain reports, officers were called to the scene by concerned neighbours. The massive nest is located in a hallway and may contain millions of wasps. Experts say that the common wasp found in Spain could never build a nest of this size, leading them to think that it’s an invasive species from Africa.

The police have not been able to trace the owner of the house.

That last line…if this were a horror movie, you would know exactly where the owner was.

Comments

  1. Minnie The Finn, qui devient bientôt vierge says

    i think if you look closely you can still see what’s left of the owner’s face in the upper right corner.

  2. A Hermit says

    i think if you look closely you can still see what’s left of the owner’s face in the upper right corner.

    No, I think that’s Jesus. Looks just like the one in my waffle this morning…

  3. peterh says

    @ #3:

    If it’s not in burnt toast or the rain runoff on a municipal building, it’s not the real thing.

  4. tuibguy says

    Invasive species? Has anyone considered that the spaniards may be members of an invasive species? I think that this is part of how evolution is supposed to work. Populations of African wasps needs to survive and this one is finding new territory. Invasive species.

    Did you stop to consider if tiktaalik was once an invasive species? Did the insects of Nunavat roll out the red carpet for them? I seriously doubt it.

    Please check your species privilege at the door.

  5. jose says

    The owner has probably been evicted by the banks like so many others and is living now out of what some supermarket throws away each night. That’s Spain in 2013 for you.

  6. carlie says

    That picture can’t be a photo of the nest in the report, right? There’s a jamb or wall edge in the picture at the original, and the wood grain makes it look more like a normal 2-3 feet tall and wide. If they’re going to have a story like that, they should make the picture one that really shows the size of the thing in question.

  7. Louis says

    “Go on Juan, poke it with a stick. Poke it! It’ll be okay, poke it!”

    Ahhhh to be young and foolish again.

    Beats old and foolish any day.

    Louis

  8. carlie says

    (Clarification: I know that was the picture in the orig. story, I just think they might have used a stock photo for it)

  9. says

    Actually, this reminds me…we have a wasp problem every summer, and I know they like to nest in our attic. Since the kids are gone, they aren’t occupying the upstairs bedrooms anymore, and I just realized I haven’t cracked the door to the attic in 2 or 3 years.

    Uh-oh.

    I’m going to have to check this out. Later. In the spring. With poisons, explosives, and a flamethrower.

  10. Sassafras says

    carlie, I followed the links back to the original article and it appears io9 stretched the width of the image out to double what it originally was. So either the original article is using some stock photo, or the nest wraps around out of sight, or that background is really misleading.

  11. freethinkercro says

    Experts say that the common wasp found in Spain could never build a nest of this size, leading them to think that it’s an invasive species from Africa.

    Sure, blame the immigrants.

  12. raven says

    The police have not been able to trace the owner of the house.

    That last line…if this were a horror movie, you would know exactly where the owner was.

    LOL.

    Wasps are carnivorous.

    There wouldn’t be anything left but bones.

  13. JohnM says

    PZ, the time to strike is now. It’s probably cold enough up there so that they’re not active. If you can cut off any heat to the attic overnight, that would be good.

  14. evilDoug says

    I used to have an amazing talent for walking on or too close to wasp nests built very near the ground in low brush. Always while wearing shorts. They don’t like having their homes disturbed. I suppose I should be grateful they were US wasps with a second amendment fetish.

    If I had wasps in my attic I’d probably go buy a package of assorted bright colors of construction paper and hang some sheets up for them. Some are known to make use of such for building their nests. I would, however, likely come to regret my actions.

    All this reminds me I wanted to put out some bee houses. I usually have one or two big bees that seem to take up residence behind my power meter, entering through a hole that shouldn’t be there. They are very nice bees and I’d like to have a few more around.

  15. Ulysses says

    Don’t forget to wear your wasp-proof armor when you go to the attic. Also have 911 on speed dial

  16. Trebuchet says

    Note that the location, San Sebastián de la Gomera, is in the Canary Islands, not mainland Spain. I suspect the picture just shows one end of the nest which may run on down a hallway to the right.

    And hilariously, a Google search for San Sebastián de la Gomera Wasp comes up with a picture of ex-pope Benedict!

  17. redjuggler says

    So this is not a type of wasp found in Spain, but believed to be an invasive species from Africa.

    Did anyone else note that the town this is in is in the Canary Islands, which belong to Spain, but in fact are off the coast of, you guessed it, AFRICA?

  18. Olav says

    Evil Doug #20:

    All this reminds me I wanted to put out some bee houses.

    Please do. Bees can use some help. They can also be quite pleasant neighbours. Basically: you leave them alone, they leave you alone.

    I find wasps fascinating but only from a healthy distance.

  19. carlie says

    Sili – well, more normal. We had a 3-foot across wasp nest fall out of a tree in the backyard during a storm a couple of years ago. Inactive, thankfully (or they all got the heck out before we noticed it).

    PZ – we had a wasps in the attic problem too. Ours were all entering through crappy soffit vents, so we hired someone to redo the soffits for us when it was still cold out and used foaming killer spray on any found nests. After that was done, I went into the attic then and did the same from the inside in the eaves and used spray foam to fill any visible gaps to the outside. By the time it was wasp season a few weeks later, the problem was mostly gone. Now’s the time to go kill them off, before they come out of hibernation.

  20. René says

    Re: flamethrower:

    Anecdote I I never was afraid of the common wasp (I don’t think there are any other species in my country), I just find them extremely annoying. I usually didn’t empathisize with the alien lifeform called insect (except for ants and humble bees), but that changed a little when I learned that wasps seem to be able to recognize other wasps’ faces. Anyway, I didn’t give a single fuck when I had to destroy a wasp colony that invaded the (stone) double wall of my shed: they had nested in it through a ventilation slit in the outer wall. I fitted my ‘flamethrower’ (a DIY piping tool) at their front door and kept it on until it ran out of gas. VERY effective, I can tell you.

    Anecdote II A wasp nest that I found in my sister’s garage (it looked like a blob of pur foam at first) is now on display at a friend’s home — it’s a thing of beauty for sure: a paper marvel of chewed wood. (BTW, not grey, but yellow!)

    Anecdote III I once found a humble bees’ nest in the garden. Another marvel of nature.

    Insects are interesting aliens, tho’ it’s hard to empathisize with the the critters.

  21. says

    I saw a peculiar waspish looking creature one day. I say wasp-ish because it was at least 2 times bigger than any wasp I had seen in the northwest so acting on the assumption that bigger is more painful I squished it. turns out it was a Five-Banded Tiphiid Wasp who deposit eggs into tree beetles so they have no beef with people at all. Embarrassed myself greatly for my prejudice so now a I google flying whatsits before I go all Seal Team Six on them. You just never know when that scary new neighbor will be a good friend.

  22. MissEla says

    We had a yellowjacket wasp problem in my apartment building a few years ago. I found them going in and out of a hole in the wall next to the stairs, which I promptly plugged up. A few days later, I heard a loud *BOOM*. I figured one of the neighbors had dropped something–was I ever wrong! The next morning, as I walked down the stairs, I saw a giant pile of sheetrock on the stairs and looked up. There, where the underside of the stairwell was, was a basketball-sized wasp nest hanging from a stair tread. The size and weight had collapsed the underside of the stairs. I took a picture before calling property management to have it taken care of. :P

  23. madtom1999 says

    Wasps communicate through pheromones. While the nest may be huge the active part will not be too large – a few cubic feet at most for ‘wasps’.
    I’m allergic to the little bastards we get in the UK but spend a few days dissecting and 9′ by 6′ by 5′ nest I found in our attic – it consists of pods of cells that were used on a yearly basis. Every year a new pod was built on the outside of the old ones and with care you could find out what plants were used at various times of the year for construction. It was a work of surreal beauty and didn’t fill a 2gallon bucket when crushed carefully. I think that was about 12 to 15 years work.
    If you ever want to gasp at the how amazing evolution is find an wasp nest at the end of the season and treat it with reverence and slowly take it apart. Failing that just enjoy the sheer beauty of the marquetry if you are lucky enough to live near a woodyard or mixed forest.

  24. weatherwax says

    One of my jobs was working on a dead tree removal/ fire fuel reduction program in southern California. My job was to count the trees as they were cut, and mark the stumps. Which meant that when the tree hit the ground, the crew would move onto the next tree, and I would walk over to mark the stump…just as the bees were coming out to talk to whoever just knocked down their tree…

  25. Jacob Schmidt says

    I’ve never had to much problems with wasps, aside from being afraid of them (it’s a very primordial fear). Far more scary are what my father calls “pine bugs”; they grow to about the size and proportions of ones pinky, and are very willing to bite.

  26. says

    #29: Did you have to say that? Last time I checked the attic, the nest I saw was directly above where my head is right now.

  27. Ulysses says

    Last time I checked the attic, the nest I saw was directly above where my head is right now.

    Thank FSM that Chris can continue Pharyngula since PZ will soon be brained by the ceiling coming down on his head. Thanks for planning ahead, PZ.

  28. MissEla says

    @ PZ: I guess you don’t want me to mention what wasps did to my grandmother’s bedroom ceiling then, huh? (Hint: the exact same thing—right above her bed.)

    Mwahahahahahaha*cough*choke*sputter* Sorry, something caught in my throat.

  29. says

    Ulysses:

    Thank FSM that Chris can continue Pharyngula since PZ will soon be brained by the ceiling coming down on his head. Thanks for planning ahead, PZ.

    I’m starting a pool on how long afterward people will leave comments saying “great post, PZ!”

  30. unclefrogy says

    I like the “meat bees” that we have out here in L.A. since their main diet seems to the green bottle fies that are an unsanitary annoyance , so I don’t bother their nests nor the ones that eat caterpillars who are slightly larger than the ones the eat the flies. Neither of them nor any thing else has access to the inside or underneath of my house. Some times I leave the ones on the porch stay there works great to dissuade the Jehovah wit-less’s and the Mormons and other unwanted knockers on my front door.

    I heard a story from a roofer I met who had to remove a bee hive from between two layers of a roof between the porch and the main roof that filled two trips of a Toyota PU to haul away after they were all killed.
    uncle frogy

  31. MadHatter says

    I am terrified of wasps. Bees too, though if I recognize them as honeybees I can manage to control the fear. I know exactly where it comes from too. An overactive imagination as a child.

    However, it’s still with me though I can control it most of the time.

    I know need to know, and need someone else to tell me…is the picture of the “japanese hornet” that is in one of the first comments on the io9 page for real? It actually gave me that jolt of terror and I tried to google it but the images just destroyed my poor psyche.

    Please…the giant nest was bad…but if wasps that size exist I may just move to Antarctica.

  32. MadHatter says

    I am terrified of wasps. Bees too, though if I recognize them as honeybees I can manage to control the fear. I know exactly where it comes from too. An overactive imagination as a child.

    However, it’s still with me though I can control it most of the time.

    I now need to know, and need someone else to tell me…is the picture of the “japanese hornet” that is in one of the first comments on the io9 page for real? It actually gave me that jolt of terror and I tried to google it but the images just destroyed my poor psyche.

    Please…the giant nest was bad…but if wasps that size exist I may just move to Antarctica.

  33. says

    For those who don’t know (most Americans I imagine), La Gomera is one of the Canary Islands. Politically we’re an autonomous region of Spain, but geographically we’re off the coast of West Africa, about 1,000 miles from the Spanish mainland. So most of Spain is probably safe from this new wasp for a while yet, but I’m on the neighbouring island of La Palma, and I’m not happy.

  34. thecalmone says

    A friend of mine has bees in the wall of her house. There is a constant low humming sound coming from that wall if you put your ear to it. During a heatwave a couple of years ago she could scrape off the honey that came oozing off the inside of the wall.

  35. CaitieCat says

    Horrifying to me – I’m lethally allergic to the damn things, have lost breathing once from them when I was quite young, and had my hand puff up bigger than a softball when a honeybee just walked across the back of my hand one summer day. I carry an epi-pen for it.

    So I’ll just be admiring it from here inside my nice safe apartment, the one with carefully-cultivated Spiders of Doom in all the window spaces…(we like spiders, spiders are our friends, they make the naughty flying death machines go away, yes they do, and tidy up flies rather nicely into the bargain).

  36. Ogvorbis, broken failure. says

    The most horrific wasp on earth, bar none, is the bald-faced hornet.

    What, they are too wasps. Hornet, wasp, yellowjacket (Georgia Tech!), all are wasps, right?

    Actually, I think I was raised a WASP. And, considering the damage some of the WASPs have done here in the US, I retract my first statement.

    Oh, and, wonderful post, PZed.

    With poisons, explosives, and a flamethrower.

    No, PZ, DOOOOOOOOOOON’T! You’ll only anger the dangerous little fuckers!

    Nuke ‘em from orbit.

    I seem to recall some of the denizens were developing an LOLcat orbital weapon a few months back. Perhaps they have perfected it?

    Do your attic attack now, while they’re frozen.

    He’s in freakin’ Minnesota! Do you really think that it’ll be cold there? I mean, it is April, right?

  37. Ogvorbis, broken failure. says

    Damn.

    I forgot to include Chris Clarke’s quote.

    I’m starting a pool on how long afterward people will leave comments saying “great post, PZ!”

    Oh, and, wonderful post, PZed.

    Which would be even funnier if I had read the byline before tossing that out there. Trust me. It was funny. Really.

    And boring.

  38. DLC says

    Wasps. can’t trust ‘em. always excluding non-wasps from their country club, and they put mayonnaise on everything.

  39. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    No, PZ, DOOOOOOOOOOON’T! You’ll only anger the dangerous little fuckers!

    Nuke ‘em from orbit.

    Nah, the Pullet Patrol Products™ prototype p*h*a*s*e*r on stun/burn looks like the ticket. Might leave most of the house structure intact.

  40. Tethys says

    Ogvorbis

    He’s in freakin’ Minnesota! Do you really think that it’ll be cold there? I mean, it is April, right?

    It’s 36 F 2 C, dreary, with several inches of FRESH snow. Cabin Fever is going to reach epidemic proportions if spring doesn’t stop lollygagging about.

  41. Ogvorbis, broken failure. says

    It’s 36 F 2 C, dreary, with several inches of FRESH snow. Cabin Fever is going to reach epidemic proportions if spring doesn’t stop lollygagging about.

    Even more evidence (as if we needed more) that sarcasm and the internet are only marginally compatible. Sorry.

  42. Olav says

    René #27:

    I usually didn’t empathisize with the alien lifeform called insect (except for ants and humble bees),

    Bumblebees. They are the stocky round bees that you can pet while they are foraging on your flowers. They don’t care at all, very cool.

    but that changed a little when I learned that wasps seem to be able to recognize other wasps’ faces.

    Yes, among the insects eusocial wasps are probably the most intelligent. Also, dragonflies.

    Insects are interesting aliens, tho’ it’s hard to empathisize with the the critters.

    I don’t find it too difficult. I am convinced that insects, while very simple animals, actually do have (very simple) feelings and experiences. It may be true that their emotions are mostly regulated by pheromones, but then again our own feelings and behaviours are the result of brain chemistry, too. Through my limited experience with bees I don’t doubt that they experience fear, rage, lust, happiness (when they are safe among their own), et cetera.

    If I had wasps nesting in my attic I would also try to get rid of them by any means, but I would still feel bad for the wasps. If it were bees, I would try to have them relocated (you can usually call a local beekeeper to do that for you) or just put up with them for a season.

    In order to lure solitary bees and wasps into your garden, you can build an insect hotel. It is very interesting to watch what happens in there.

  43. Tethys says

    Sorry Og, I am apparently manifesting an advanced case of cabin fever. The snow is evilllllllllllll.

    I like wasps and bees, and I plant lots of food and provide nesting habitat for them every year.
    The paper wasps do a great job taking care of pest management in my garden.

  44. Olav says

    MadHatter #43:

    I now need to know, and need someone else to tell me…is the picture of the “japanese hornet” that is in one of the first comments on the io9 page for real? It actually gave me that jolt of terror and I tried to google it but the images just destroyed my poor psyche.

    Please…the giant nest was bad…but if wasps that size exist I may just move to Antarctica.

    Yes, it is real. It is a Japanese giant hornet, you can look it up on Wikipedia. They are ferocious murderers (of other insects) but harmless to people. As long as you don’t make them mad, I guess.

    Insects like the European honey bee have absolutely no defence against them. It is on Youtube if you can stomach witnessing the massacre: 30 hornets vs. 30,000 bees.

    Indigenous honey bees do have an interesting strategy to deal with the hornets: Japanese Giant Hornet Scout Killed by Asian Bees.

  45. prfesser says

    Truly, it ought not to be difficult to deal with. A small-yield nuclear weapon—100 kt, tops—ought to do the trick right quick.

  46. illdoittomorrow says

    My parents had a good sized beehive in a gap in an exterior wall of their house. They kept getting these big, furry, orange-banded guys coming into the house in ones and twos. Unfortunately they called an exterminator, not a beekeeper, to remove them :-(

  47. Jacob Schmidt says

    @Anders Kehlet

    Really? I’ve never been afraid of wasps, so I’m inclined to think that such fear is cultural in origin. I think they are fascinating and beautiful.

    I find them very interesting. From a distance of at least a few feet. And in full view. Once I can’t see them or they get too close, I get really nervous.

  48. dancaban says

    My first thought sent a shiver down my spine as I hate the blighters as much as anybody else but then I thought how magnificent!

  49. MadHatter says

    Olav @57

    I tried to look them up. I really did. I nearly ended up in a ball gibbering inanely. I had hoped it was someones idea of a very bad joke that hornets got so big, and it truly doesn’t matter if they are harmless to me or not. There is no other critter in the world that can inspire this level of terror for me and size really does matter. I have a hard enough time with our native yellowjackets and various wasps that are no more than an inch or two.

    Antarctica…here I come…

  50. Sili says

    Sili – well, more normal. We had a 3-foot across wasp nest fall out of a tree in the backyard during a storm a couple of years ago. Inactive, thankfully (or they all got the heck out before we noticed it).

    No.

    “Normal” is 20 cm.
    30 cm is BIG!

    1 m is out of this world horrible.

  51. Olav says

    MadHatter #64:

    I had hoped it was someones idea of a very bad joke that hornets got so big, and it truly doesn’t matter if they are harmless to me or not.

    My use of the word “harmless” in #57 was not accurate of course, giant hornets can be quite dangerous to people. So your fear of them is not entirely unreasonable, if that makes you feel any better. However the hornets do not deliberately attack humans, they are simply not interested in us unless we disturb them.

  52. AshPlant says

    prfesser @58: Have you lost your mind? Don’t you know what happens when you mix vicious insects and nuclear weaponry/radiation? Drop that bomb, and soon the phrase “22-foot wasp’s nest” will need another hyphen!

  53. Rick Pikul says

    A more serious suggestion for dealing with wasp nests: A shop-vac.

    Half-fill the bin with water and some insecticide and fix as long of a pipe as you can handle to the end of the hose. Start vacuuming up the nest, the wasps will react to this intruder by attacking it, (and joining their nest in the bin).

  54. says

    OK, but they’re just building on an old foundation. They are not using the whole nest–it’s mostly empty and sealed-off chambers.

    PZ, I echo the advice to get someone to take care of it now before the wasps awaken or hatch. If there’s no sign of insects, you can probably just put a plastic bag over it, scrape it off, and drop it into a freezer. Maybe the entomology department would like it.

  55. David Marjanović says

    1 m is out of this world horrible.

    Come on. 3 ft is less than 19 cm. :-þ

    Drop that bomb, and soon the phrase “22-foot wasp’s nest” will need another hyphen!

    :-D :-D :-D :-D :-D