Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Dead Women Won't Wear Plaid

Yesterday we read the very last chapter of The Tarantula in My Purse *sniff*. As soon as we read the last word, a beautiful smile dawned on Pamela's face and she asked, "Who gets the book?" I hugged the book and looked at her playfully, "It's mine!" She could tell by my expression that I was only playing around and laughed at my silliness.

Between rescuing raptors and studying a paper nest abandoned by wasps, my cyber friend Mrs. C is questioning my sanity. She suggested doing a television series called "Grizzly Glaser" featuring a pet bear and me in plaid. My sister added to grow a beard, so long as it's not a wasp beard. At least, one of my Charlotte Mason friends didn't blink an eye and only asked me to take pictures, hopefully not of the woman running with arms flailing over her head as another friend envisioned.

I wasn't too worried. We had a major arctic blast last week with temperatures as low as 19 degrees Fahrenheit. That night was miserable in the Glaser household because a transformer blew in the middle of the night and we lost power for four hours. The warmest room in the house (the kitchen) hit an all-time low of 50 degrees!

Since so many people feared for our safety, I did a little research:
The colony dies in the fall with only the newly produced queens surviving the winter. The new queens leave their nests during late summer and mate with males. The queens then seek out overwintering sites, such as under loose bark, in rotted logs, under siding or tile, and in other small crevices and spaces, where they become dormant. These queens become active the following spring when temperatures warm. They search for favorable nesting sites to construct new nests. They do not reuse old nests. . .

At temperatures below 50° F, wasps have difficulty flying. Never seal a wasp nest until you are sure there are no surviving wasps inside. If a nest is not discovered until fall, control may be unnecessary as imminent freezing temperatures will kill the colony.

We started this nature study early in the fall when the wasps were active. Wasps love our camellia, which is right next to the old cookhouse in our yard, where the wasps like to build paper nests. From time to time, I sneaked in and snapped pictures of the relatively small nests. We wrapped up the ladybug study and segued into wasps by comparing the physical similarities and differences. I'm not crazy enough to handle live wasps and we relied upon photographs for our Venn diagram.

A month later, on a particularly cold day, we studied the wasp colony again. Because the nest looked abandoned, I thought we were safe to study it. Closer inspection revealed what surviving wasps do to stay warm. We documented the dwindling of its population on a Venn diagram and recorded our observations.

Pamela also made entries in her nature journal.

Yesterday, before hastily grabbing the nest, I checked behind it and looked for evidence of live wasps. Once I was absolutely certain of our safety, I called Pamela into the cookhouse. As you can see in the video below Pamela showed wise caution and overcame her mild fears when she saw me standing in the cookhouse unmolested. We removed the nest and headed in the house to study it.

Shea, the friend who invited me on the raptor adventure, told me how brave her grandmother was, "My Maw-Maw used to pull down the one's full of larva when the adults were not around and use the larva as fishing bait. I was always terrified when she would break into one of those cells and pull out the wasps in various stages of development . . . talk about bravado!"

Yeah, well . . . I'm going to have to think about that . . . maybe early next summer when the colony is weak. I'll face the fierce wasps and grow a beard. But, I won't wear plaid!


Stranded said...

This is so impressive!
I never got to see a nest of anythign when I was in school - to think they were such expensive private schools. So exciting :)

Homeschooling rules.

walking said...

Nature study is a fabulous way to learn many things that go beyond just science: geography, literature, writing, mathematics, drawing, etc.

I love homeschooling and I also love a Charlotte Mason approach to education!