Saturday, June 13, 2015

Sunday Nature Study

Lonnie E. Brown
When I was growing up near Ono, there weren't any computer games or cell phones to entertain us. We had to create our own diversions. I went to school weekdays and helped my dad on Saturdays, so Sunday after church was the only time I was truly on my own.
The activity I enjoyed most was to conduct nature studies. I usually did not tell my mom because, if I did, I was sure to get a scolding about being an aggravating little thing that should not bother innocent little creatures.
One of my encounters that I classified under the heading of nature studies was with a mud dauber wasp. Mud daubers are solitary wasps that construct small nests of mud in or around sheds, barns, or under structures or similar sites.

Mud Dauber nest by Barbara Appleby
My dad said mud daubers should be considered beneficial. They rarely sting people and they catch disagreeable spiders and insects, which they do sting to paralyze them for placement in their nests in a series of cells. They lay a single egg on the prey and seal the cell with mud. Then the female leaves and does not return. The larva hatch from the eggs feeding on the prey until it is time to emerge and start the process all over again.
One of my afternoon walks had not turned up anything of interest, until I noticed a mud dauber fly under the storage shed my Dad had built near the house. I crawled under the shed and saw the wasp was in the process of constructing a nest. I knew the females collected mud, rolled it into a ball, carried it to the nest, and molded it into place with its mandibles. This nest was well under way and she was adding ringed layers of mud at this point. Without noticing me, she flew away for another mud ball.
I carefully reached up and removed the mud ring she had just attached to the nest. Then I waited. In a few minutes the dauber returned with another mud ball. It seemed puzzled, but it went to work, applied another ring of mud, and then flew off. Again I reached up and removed the last mud layer. Then I moved out of sight and waited.
Shortly, the dauber returned with another load. Now it was really frustrated. It sensed something was wrong as it wasn't making any progress. It checked the entire nest, going up, over, and all around. Finally, it added the last load and flew off again.
I moved in fast and removed the mud. I was curious about what it would do when it came back. I didn't have long to wait. The poor dauber returned again and saw the mud was gone. It dropped the ball of mud it carried and flew away. Although I waited a long time, she never came back.
I crawled out from under the shed feeling a little guilty about what I had done to the hard working dauber and went to the house. I learned a valuable lesson that Sunday from the little dauber. When you see you aren't getting anywhere in spite of your best efforts, cut your losses and move on.

Lonnie Brown is a fine teller of tales as his, Stories You Won't Believe exemplifies. He also collaborates with his wife, Roberta Simpson Brown, for some hair raising ghost stories.

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