A cuckoo wasp (Chrysis angolensis species, I believe) takes a shine to the milkweed leaves.

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Bald-faced hornets reportedly have little cause to bother people when nesting high in trees.

But back in mid-June a couple of unsuspecting kids stumbled past a nest in the low-growing shrubs here and incited the stinging ire of three of them.

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Thus I found myself, in the coming cover of night, wrapped head to toe and sneaking up on the neatly concealed nest to quickly dispatch its residents before they got to anyone else.

But what I found upon a following day’s inspection inspired a surprisingly fond appreciation for the defensiveness of these creatures.

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Their colorful, cantaloupe-sized nest was fashioned with wood chewed by female workers.

Inside, where those workers feed the queen’s larvae, I found several of the young still wriggling snuggly in their symmetrically styled cells.

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When ready, cells are capped for larvae to pupate.  Later, with the chewing help of workers, a new adult emerges.

In fact, here’s one on its way out now.

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And so it seems we’ll occasionally meet individuals on Little Crum Creek who are easy to vilify:  ankle-biting skeeters, skin-burrowing ticks,  garden-decimating deer, and stinging bald-faced hornets.

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But then, occasionally, there’s a glimpse of another world — a whole hidden community of work, craft, and sacrifice — a world surely worth defending, a home understandably worth stinging for.

[UPDATE:  By “dispatch its residents” I meant to say, maybe too gently, that I sprayed the nest with insecticide, stinging back at the wasps that stung us, each of us alike in defending our respective home & family. Regrettably, this spraying killed the adult workers that guard the nest and doomed those that depend on them.  These wasps, in this location (otherwise I wouldn’t think of removal), repeatedly demonstrated themselves to be dangerous, and I would not have approached the nest without first “dispatching” the threat of being attacked.]

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A new planting is the perfect mixer for meeting seldom seen residents of Little Crum Creek.

Some blooming summersweet (Clethra alnifolia), for example, recently hosted several bumblebees and wasps.

Hence came Sphex nudus, I presume.  

Known as a kind of “digger wasp” for nesting in the ground, Sphex nudus is commonly called a “katydid wasp” after its typical prey.

But I’m basing our particular acquaintance solely on appearance.

Contrasted with similar-looking wasps, orangish legs distinguish Sphex nudus from the “great black wasp,” Sphex pennsylvanicus.   And the “great golden digger wasp,” Sphex ichneumoneus, would present both orangish legs and abdomen.

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Until corrected, I’m inclined to call each wasp pictured here a Sphex nudus

What do you think? Seen one around?

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Sycamore tussock moth larvae are known to drop in on anyone who’s spent a bit of time beneath a sycamore tree in July.

These hungry caterpillars then venture to skeletonize several of the tree’s leaves before becoming sycamore tussock moths (Halysidota harrissi).

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That is, if they’re not devoured along the way.

Chances are, with her long, piercing ovipositor, a female braconid wasp could insert her eggs directly into a caterpillar.

The hatched wasp larvae will then feed on the caterpillar’s insides, break through its skin, and spin cocoons on the poor worm’s back.

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This one survived barely longer than the wasp pupation.

Below, you can just about see the neatly cut and lifted lids where the wasps emerged, leaving their spent cocoons and desiccated host behind.

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[Though they escaped observation, I inferred this general identification of braconid wasps based on a discussion at BugGuide.net.  You can read the discussion here.]

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