Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Paper wasps at their nest on a dry giant ragweed plant

with 30 comments

Paper Wasps at Nest on Dry Giant Ragweed 3196A

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While walking the trail around the Riata Trace Pond in north Austin on July 30th, I came across some paper wasps at their nest on a dried-out giant ragweed plant, Ambrosia trifida. I took a couple of dozen pictures, and for the last group of them I zoomed in as close as my lens would let me. That closeness prompted one of the wasps to zoom out at me, which I took as a signal that it was time for me to leave. I left.

And now I leave it to you to see if you can say the phrase wasps’ nests quickly a dozen times without messing up. If you make it, try wasps’ nests’ wisps. Slow’s easy, but fast’s a stinger.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 26, 2013 at 6:08 AM

30 Responses

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  1. Creepy but very cool pic, and I got tongue tied after saying it about four times LOL!!


    August 26, 2013 at 6:26 AM

    • Thanks for trying the challenge, Cindy. The phrase wasps’ nests occurred to me as a tongue twister years (maybe decades) ago, but wisps is a new and complicating addition.

      I did a search through all the blog’s comments and found that this is the seventh time a picture inspired someone to use the word creepy. And that inspires me to say that creepiness is in the mind of the beholder.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 26, 2013 at 8:07 AM

  2. Are they surveying the possibilities of turning it into a nest? Better out in the field than attached to a porch corner.


    August 26, 2013 at 6:52 AM

    • The round structure at the center of the photo is the nest they’ve constructed, Georgette, and not part of the giant ragweed whose stalks you see. Before people and their houses came along, wasps must have made exclusive use of natural objects like plants and rocks as sites for their nests.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 26, 2013 at 8:11 AM

  3. ja! that was a fun wake-up exercise! 🙂

    Playamart - Zeebra Designs

    August 26, 2013 at 6:52 AM

  4. Wasps are like the fighter jets of the insect world. They are fast and armed with sensors and weapons. I always give them due respect.

    It was almost as hard as saying ‘toy boat’ ten times fast.

    Jim in IA

    August 26, 2013 at 7:09 AM

    • I wasn’t eager to be on the receiving end of one of those fighter jets, which is why I eventually left.

      ‘Toy boat’ looks so simple but you’re right that it’s hard to repeat quickly. I wonder why.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 26, 2013 at 8:20 AM

  5. Singular’s ok, but those plurals leave me flummoxed. Maybe a speech impediment gave me my preference for incorrect possessives like John Boles’, as opposed to John Boles’s.

    I’m always fascinated by photos of bees and wasps. Their nests are amazing, and as you point out, it’s not always easy to get close enough for a good look.


    August 26, 2013 at 7:32 AM

    • I was pretty close for a good while and none of the wasps bothered with me. Only when I moved in so close that the end of my macro lens was inches away from them did I finally get a reaction. Had there been more than a few wasps, I don’t think I would’ve dared do that. I hope I wouldn’t have.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 26, 2013 at 8:24 AM

  6. Haha… tongue-twisters are a fabulous way for my daughter and I to work on one of her learning deficits, so we’ve been having fun with it. After awhile the words lose all meaning!

    This shot is gorgeous! I am pleased to see the little buggers in a habitat, as, usually, I see them in my garden shed.


    August 26, 2013 at 12:34 PM

    • Aside from tongue-twisters, even a regular word sometimes loses its meaning for me and becomes almost foreign, just a bunch of sounds, when I repeat it. That doesn’t often happen, but it does happen.

      It seems as if these wasps prefer human structures, but that could be a misconception based on the fact that we’re around human structures much more than we’re out in nature. There’s a science project for some enterprising student(s).

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 26, 2013 at 1:34 PM

  7. Do wasps sneeze from the ragweed? No problem saying wasp’s nests 12 times. 🙂

    Steve Gingold

    August 26, 2013 at 4:05 PM

    • Next time I see a conversant wasp I’ll ask about susceptibility to ragweed pollen. If the wasp asks me, I’ll say that ragweed pollen affects me in the fall (which is when it’s in the air).

      You’re a quicker man than I am with “wasps’ nests.” What about “wasps’ nests’ wisps”?

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 26, 2013 at 4:26 PM

  8. This is a really cool shot! I’m glad you didn’t get stung!

    Michael Glover

    August 26, 2013 at 8:16 PM

    • My usual attitude is that bees and wasps won’t bother me if I don’t bother them. On the other hand, it’s always possible for one of those insects to think I’m bothering it even if I’m not, and therein lies the danger.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 26, 2013 at 8:35 PM

      • For a cautionary tale, take a look at Gary Myers’ post today about his encounter with a nestful of these darlings. I think from the appearance of the nest they might be a different species, but I’m sure the personalities don’t differ that much. Still, as he points out, there’s no denying the beauty of the nest.


        August 27, 2013 at 9:09 PM

        • A cautionary tale indeed. Luckily nothing like that has happened to me. It seems to be a different sort of nest, apparently belonging to a more aggressive type of wasp, which I hope I don’t run into. A telephoto lens strikes me as just the thing for that kind of nest.

          Steve Schwartzman

          August 27, 2013 at 11:29 PM

  9. It’s certainly wasp season where we are. This is a gorgeous photograph!


    August 26, 2013 at 8:51 PM

    • Thank you. Have you painted any Canadian wasps?

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 26, 2013 at 8:57 PM

      • No. I would like to paint a Northern Alligator Lizard, but the “shaggy beast of domesticity” has been eating up all of my time lately. At this point, I would be happy to be painting anything at all, even a Canadian wasp. I do find myself getting nervous when wasps are around, especially when we’re eating outdoors.


        August 26, 2013 at 9:08 PM

  10. Incroyable ce nid, on dirait une soucoupe volante!


    August 27, 2013 at 3:57 AM

  11. Pretty wasps. Looks like they are just getting started in life.

    Emily Heath

    August 28, 2013 at 1:36 AM

    • It does look like a beginning, at least for the wasps. This was among the last things I photographed on my visit to the pond.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 28, 2013 at 8:16 AM

  12. […] On my other blog this past August I got a comment in French that likened a wasps’ nest I’d photographed to a soucoupe volante, or flying saucer. And that, I thought, makes me an extraterrestrial, but when I went to write that as a reply to the comment, I had to pause to think exactly how French spells its version of the word for ‘extraterrestrial.’ That led me to notice that extraterrestre is the spelling not only in French but also in Spanish, Galician, Portuguese, Catalan, and Italian (with all of them having a plural in -es except for Italian, whose plural is extraterrestri). I also realized that English, in addition to the standard extraterrestrial, has developed a non-standard version without the last r, an omission that linguists would label dissimilation; in other words, after two instances of a t followed (directly or closely) by an r in the word, some English speakers say enough already and refuse to pronounce another one. A Google search that I did brought up about 40% as many hits for extraterrestial as for the standard extraterrestrial. […]

  13. […] don’t know, but the search engine led the questioner to a post of mine about paper wasps building their nest on a dry giant ragweed plant. I think any similar support for the nest would have worked just as […]

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