Thursday, July 28, 2011

Paul Smith’s College VIC August Schedule

The Paul Smith’s College VIC has issued their schedule for the remaining summer season. The VIC is located at 8023 State Route 30 in Paul Smiths. For more information about the events listed here or the VIC in general contact Brian McDonnell at (518) 327-6241

July 29 – August 28: “Life on the Lakes” Juried Art Show

The Paul Smith’s College VIC has asked Caroline Thompson, Executive Director of The Arts Council of The Northern Adirondacks, to be the juror of our first juried art show. Artists from around the region have been invited to submit their works for consideration. The Opening Reception will take place from 5 to 7:00 PM on July 29th in the Great Room of the VIC. In addition to the juror selected awards, a “People’s Choice” selection determined through visitors voting for their favorite artist’s work. The balloting will be a fundraiser to support the development of art programming at The VIC.

July 30 – NOLS Comes East

The National Outdoor Leadership School, based in Lander, Wyoming, has utilized the Paul Smith’s College VIC as its eastern outpost for the month of July. NOLS is the recognized leader of “hard skills” in outdoor education and recreation. Come listen to Jack Drury, a former NOLS instructor and well known outdoor educator, give a historical perspective of NOLS followed by a presentation by Adirondack based NOLS logistics coordinator Lindsay Yost on plans for NOLS coming East with their wilderness programs.

August 6: Adirondack Wildlife Festival

The Paul Smith’s College VIC will continue the tradition of hosting the Adirondack Wildlife Festival on August 6 from 10 AM to 8 PM. There will be presentations on all creatures great and small, from Bears to Salamanders. We’ll have live music with Roy Hurd, Native American storytelling with David Fadden of the 6 Nations Indian Museum, Mark Manske’s bird on hand demonstrations, fun and games, visits to the butterfly house and a very special presentation on Loon Conservation in America by Dr. Jim Paruk, The Director of Biodiversity Research Institute’s International Center for Loon Conservation and Research.

August 12: Mindfulness Meditation Yoga Walk

Mary Bartel, ERYT, of Inner Quest Yoga and Wellness Center, will lead a silent walk from 10 AM to Noon to awaken your senses and participate in gentle flowing yoga movements on the trails at The VIC. Preregistration is required. The fee is $25.

August 13: Joe and Jessie Bruchac

Father and son Abenaki singers and storytellers, Joe and Jessie will perform their Native American themed stories and music in the Whispering Pines Amphitheatre at The Paul Smith’s College VIC at 2 PM. Sponsored by the Adirondack Center for Writing.

August 19: Adirondack Plein Air Festival Paints the VIC

Come out to the VIC on Friday August 19th to view artists in various locations around the VIC. The public is welcome to visit artists as they create art on the trails and in the woods. Three of the Plein Air artists have donated paintings to the VIC to raise awareness of the festival and to generate funds for the center. We thank them for their generous commitment to growing The Arts presence at The VIC. We will sell tickets at the front desk. The drawing will take place at the Plein Air Festival.

August 28: Monarchs in The Meadow

The benefit concert will start at 2 PM, and outdoor fun all afternoon for friends and families of the Paul Smith’s College VIC. Join us in the meadow next to the butterfly house to celebrate the migration of the Monarch butterfly and wind down the summer in style.

Regular programs and Activities:

Farmer’s Market

Check out the goods under the pavilion from local farmers on Fridays from 2 to 5 PM.

The Paul Smith’s College VIC Butterfly House

The popular butterfly house is open and staffed 7 days a week from 10:00 to 4:00 PM throughout the summer. Visitors can view native butterflies up close and learn about the life stages and migratory patterns of these colorful insects. The Butterfly House is made possible with significant support from the Adirondack Park Institute (API.) For more information contact The VIC at 327 – 6241.

The Paul Smith’s College VIC Fun Runs – Every Wednesday

Every Wednesday of the summer The Paul Smith’s College VIC offers Free Fun Trail Runs from 6:00 to 7:30. Join area runners on the great trails at The VIC. Sarah Keyes will talk training, nutrition and techniques for adding distance to your running.

First Sunday Series of Trail Races

The “First Sunday” Series will continue with a “Predator and Prey 10K” on August 7. Every month the distance for the First Sunday Series will progressively increase. September 4th we will offer a 15k Trail Race and on October 2nd we’ll offer a 13.1 mile half marathon. There will be also be a 5k option every month. “First Sunday Series” Trail Races begin at 9:00 AM. Register: Sponsors include Lake Placid Pub & Brewery, Mac’s Canoe Livery and Paul Smith’s College. For more information contact The VIC at 327 – 6241.

Naturalist led Back Country Paddles – Every Tuesday of the summer.

The Paul Smith’s College VIC offers a guided back country canoe trip every Tuesday of the summer. Trips are suitable for families. MAC’S Canoe Livery, in Lake Clear, will furnish the boats and equipment. Trips meet at The VIC at 10 AM and return by 4 PM. Trip fee is $75 for adults. Reservations are required. For a complete schedule, more information or to make a reservation for these popular trips 327 – 6241.

Explore the Adirondack ALPS – Every Thursday of the summer.

The Paul Smith’s College VIC offers a series of day hikes up the “Adirondack Low Peaks” in close proximity to The VIC. Trips meet at The VIC at 10 AM and return by 4 PM. Trip fee is $50 for adults. For a complete schedule, more information or to make a reservation for these popular trips, contact The VIC at 327 – 6241.

Naturalist led hikes and paddles at The VIC – Every day of the summer

Come explore nature at The Paul Smith’s College VIC! The trails are open and free to the public all the time! To enhance your experience, join one of The VIC naturalists for an investigative two hour hike in the woods or paddle on the waters of The VIC. Groups meet at 10 AM and 2 PM daily. Trip fee is $20 for adults. For a complete schedule, more information or to make a reservation for these popular trips, contact The VIC at 327 – 6241.

“Fun with Fungi” Mushroom walks

The Paul Smith’s College VIC will host naturalist led mushroom explorations on the trails and in the woods of the 3000 acre VIC campus. Come investigate “anything fungal” with mushroom specialist Susan Hopkins on Thursday, July 21, and August 4. We will meet at the VIC Visitor’s Building at 10:00AM for an introduction on what you might expect to see at this time of year; followed by a two hour walk of identification and collection. After the walk we will return to the center and those interested can sort out and discuss the various fungi collected on the tour. Susan will explain the various field guides and simple keys she uses to identify the various local mushrooms. The Fun with Fungi Interpretive Workshop is $20 per person. Preregistration is required.

Yoga on the deck at The VIC

Jackie Foster, RYT, will lead sessions on the deck at the VIC to awaken your senses to the natural world. Wednesdays through 8/31 from 9:30 to 10:45 AM. $15 per session

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Second Asian Clam Infestation Found in Lake George

A new infestation of the invasive species Asian clam (Corbicula fluminea) has been discovered in Lake George in Boon Bay in the Town of Bolton. The new infestation was discovered as part of the FUND for Lake George’s Eurasian watermilfoil management and control program in cooperation with the Lake George Park Commission. Initial survey work by the RPI Darrin Fresh Water Institute in Boon Bay estimates the population to be 3.75 acres – 5 acres in size.

This is the second infestation discovered in Lake George. Last fall a 5-acre infestation in the Village of Lake George was discovered. The Lake George Asian Clam Rapid Response Task Force organized to combat this infestation and a treatment effort has been underway in the Village since late April under permits from the Adirondack Park Agency and NYS Department of Environmental Conservation. Over 725 benthic barriers have been installed to suffocate the clams. » Continue Reading.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Sportsmen Education Weekend Planned

Cornell Cooperative Extension will be working in cooperation with Sportsmen Education Instructors and the Warren County Conservation Council to host various sportsmen education classes on Saturday, September 17th and Sunday, September 18th.

Three classes are being offered each day; Sportsman Education, Bow Hunter Education, or Trapper Education (you may choose ONLY ONE class per day). These Sportsman and Bowhunter Education classes are being offered as home study course and all materials need to be picked up at Cornell Cooperative Extension Education Center. All classes are FREE and will be held from 8:30 am – 4:30 pm at PACK FOREST in Warrensburg.

Lunch will be available at the site for a fee of $6 and will include hamburgers or hotdogs; a drink; and a chips. The proceeds of the lunch are going to support the Warren County Conservation Council’s efforts in education and advocacy. This fee can be paid when you pick up the course materials; PLEASE BRING EXACT CHANGE.

Registration is required and classes will fill quickly. For more information, please contact the CCE Education Center at (518) 623-3291 or 668-4881 or e-mail

Photo: Family Fishing at Cascade Lake (1973, Anne LaBastille-EPA Photo).

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

High Peaks Happy Hour: Big Moose Inn, Eagle Bay

The Big Moose Inn and Restaurant, located directly on Big Moose Lake in Eagle Bay was the first stop on our Old Forge Summer Tour, more aptly defined as the Old Forge Pub Crawl. Ours was one of just a few cars in the parking lot, but it was early afternoon and we had a long day ahead of us.

The dramatic view of the grand covered porch, dotted with rocking chairs and expanding outward to a vast open deck overlooking the lake, inspires a feeling reminiscent of summer vacations of years past. Several small docks on Big Moose Lake capture attention, drawing the eye along an expanse of lawn to the lake and small beach. Quiet and secluded, The Big Moose Inn has an air of sophistication and Adirondack lore, evoking a sentimental yearning for simpler times. Its timelessness captures the imagination. A novelist could come here to spend a week and leave with a finished manuscript.

Work to be done, we grudgingly entered the tavern, leaving an early summer afternoon behind. The tavern, cool and dark with walls of wood and brick, complemented the exterior charm. We half expected to see Ernest Hemingway entertaining friends in one of the booths, or John Irving alone at the bar, having strayed from his New England comfort zone.

Spot lights shone gently on the dark plank bar which seated about 14, with ample room for standing patrons too. Each of three booths on the opposite wall were illuminated overhead with Tiffany lamps; a cozy room with brick fireplace was tucked away beyond, and provided more private seating.

As Pam’s eyes adjusted to the darkness, Kim immediately pointed out the business cards adorning the ceiling. Skewered with straws, swizzle sticks and cocktail picks, the ceiling was almost completely obscured by thousands of business cards. Hard to describe because of their multitude, some of the cards were obviously yellowed with age. Though barely visible, the ceiling was tile. Mark, the most recent owner, later advised that they came with the inn; that some had been there for thirty years. He felt compelled to leave them for their nostalgic significance, despite criticism from state authorities. Can’t blame him, we would leave them too.

We took a seat at the bar and were immediately greeted by Melinda, the bartender. Upon inquiry regarding drinks unique to the establishment, Melinda offered Pam a Big Moose Manhattan, proudly laced with Adirondack maple syrup. The maple syrup sank to the bottom and Pam showed no shame occasionally enjoying it through the swizzle stick. Just good to see her sipping since this was only our first stop. A variety of flavored vodkas are available, indicating a better than average selection of drinks. Several wine, draft and bottled beer choices are also offered.

Big Moose Inn’s Big Moose Manhattan:
1 part Seagram’s VO
1 part sweet vermouth
Drizzle with real maple syrup and garnish with two cherries

Melinda was courteous, friendly and knowledgeable about the history of the Big Moose Inn, offering a book on the history of Big Moose Lake to help support our questions. She was busy tending to both the bar and the deck patrons, but still took time to alert the proprietor of our presence.

Owner Mark Mayer came out to introduce himself. Obviously quite proud of the Big Moose Inn, Mark spent several minutes sharing history, trivia, hauntings, and his family’s acquisition of the inn. Perhaps the most famous Adirondack ghost, stories of Grace Brown attracted TV’s Unsolved Mysteries several years ago.

Offering 16 rooms, the inn is open year round and entertains summer vacationers and winter snowmobilers. The Big Moose Tavern is open from noon to midnight and Happy Hour drink specials are available from 4 to 6 p.m. They do offer music on occasion, featuring solo artists. Summer and winter hours vary, but claim winter is the best time to visit. We had trouble with this proclamation, given the beautiful view of the lake, the sandy beach and massive porch and deck. The tavern is only open four days, including weekends, after the summer season.

Reluctantly, we left the Big Moose Inn in search of our next destination. One down. Seven to go. In an effort to catch up, we plan to review some of the Old Forge area bars first on the Adirondack Almanack and others on our blog. Lake Placid reviews of The Cottage, Lisa G’s and Dancing Bears have all been completed and posted.

Kim and Pam Ladd’s book, Happy Hour in the High Peaks, is currently in the research stage. Together they visit pubs, bars and taverns with the goal of selecting the top 46 bars in the Adirondack Park. They regularly report their findings here at the Almanack and at their own blog, or follow them on Facebook, and ADK46barfly on Twitter.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Gear: The Smallest Personal Locator Beacon Available

Outdoor electronic equipment is not immune to the trend toward smaller and lighter electronics, which was apparent with the official unveiling of ACR Electronics’ newest personal locator beacon (PLB), the ResQLink™.

On July 21, 2011, the FCC gave its final approval for ACR’s ResQLink, the smallest and lightest PLB currently on the market. Consequently, the ACR ResQLink went on sale soon after the announcement. The ACR ResQLink is now the smallest, full-powered, GPS-enabled rescue beacon specifically designed for anglers, pilots and, especially, back country enthusiasts.

Personal locator beacons are electronic devices used to notify search and rescue personnel of an individual in distress who is far away from normal emergency services such as 911 (e.g. bushwhacking somewhere deep in the Adirondack backcountry). These devices interface with the COSPAS-SARSAT, the international satellite system for search-and-rescue (SAR), and can often be individually identified and precisely located when GPS equipped.

Personal locator beacons have saved numerous people’s lives in the back country and should be carried on any adventure off the beaten path, especially by solo explorers. By giving a precise location of an injured person these devices save time, money and reduce the risk to SAR personnel.

The ACR ResQLink is now the smallest and lightest PLB currently on the market (a distinction previous held by the McMurdo FastFind 210). The ResQLink measures at 1.3 inches by 1.9 inches by 3.9 inches, making it comparable to the size of a cell-phone. In addition, it weighs a mere 4.6 ounces. This makes it smaller and lighter than most people’s wallets!

At this size and weight, the ResQLink can easily be stowed almost anywhere in a backpack. Just make sure it is placed somewhere accessible and not at the very bottom of an overly-stuffed backpack. It could even be carried in a shirt or pant pocket!

Although small in size, the ResQLink has the full capability of a serious PLB. With the ResQLink, ACR has packaged GPS positioning, a 406 MHz signal and 121.5 MHz homing capability into a little package that can rapidly and accurately relay your position to the search and rescue satellite system in case of an emergency. The 66-channel GPS can even guide rescuers to within 100 meters or less of your position. In addition, an integrated strobe light provides greater visibility in the case of a nighttime rescue.

Like most ACR PLBs, the ResQLink is extremely easy to use. Just deploy the antenna and press the exposed ON button, preferably somewhere with a clear view of the sky. When not in use the metal blade antenna lies wrapped around the case and the ON button is hidden behind the plastic base of the antenna. This device is so easy to use that it can even be operated with a single hand.

The ResQLink provides two built-in tests to verify the device is functioning properly. With just a push of a button either the internal electronics or the GPS functionality can be tested before heading into the backcountry. These tests can reduce the anxiety regarding the device functioning properly after an entire winter in storage.

Unlike some other PLB products, the ResQLink requires no paid subscription but through ACR’s optional website it does have some limited messaging capability.

The ResQLink is made right here in the USA, comes with a 5-year limited warranty and has a suggested retail price of $325. But a cursory scan of the internet yielded typical prices as low as $279.

As a matter of full disclosure, I have not had the opportunity to use (or even touch) a ResQLink yet. The information for this article is a compilation of my experience with ACR’s MicroFix (a larger and older PLB), the literature provided by ACR on their website and some reviews on the Internet (including this excellent one).

The combined size and weight make the ACR ResQLink easier to carry than any other PLB on the market, especially compared to those previously offered by ACR. Since a PLB can mean the difference between life and death in an emergency, there is increasingly no excuse to avoid carrying one especially one as small and lightweight as the ResQLink.

Photos: ResQLink by ACR Electronics.

Dan Crane blogs about his bushwhacking adventures at Bushwhacking Fool.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

John Sheehan: Snowmobile Trails Plan Goes Too Far

The Adirondack Council will file comments with the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) this week objecting to serious flaws in the Unit Management Plan (UMP) for the Independence River Wild Forest.

The Independence River Wild Forest is an area of public land and waters west of Stillwater Reservoir in Herkimer and Lewis counties, extending to the park’s western border. It is bounded by the Ha-De-Ron-Dah Wilderness to the south, Pepperbox Wilderness to the north, and Pigeon Lake Wilderness to the east. Comments on the unit management plan are due to DEC by July 29.

There are two main problems with the plan, both of which involve the DEC’s decisions to ignore current legal protections for the Forest Preserve. Both problems seem to be caused by the DEC’s rush to accommodate the wishes of snowmobile clubs and boosters who are applying local political pressure. » Continue Reading.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Adirondack Family Activities: Shakespeare in the Park

Shakespeare in the Park comes to the Adirondacks in many forms this summer from the Adirondack Shakespeare Company’s five-week tour of “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) to the Adirondack Lakes Center for the Arts traveling performance of Romeo and Juliet. The one theatre presentation set apart from the others is The Depot Theatre’s annual Shakespeare program for young people.

For the tenth year Westport’s The Depot Theatre has introduced Shakespeare to those children from 7th grade and older to the wonders of the Baird. Directed and instructed by theatre educators Lindsay Pontius and Scott Gibbs, The Depot Theatre’s Shakespeare in the Park do not hold formal auditions but use word of mouth and The Depot website to let interested children know when rehearsals will start happening for the annual Ballard Park performance. » Continue Reading.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

DEC Annouces NY Forest Photo Contest

In recognition of the importance of forests to the health and well being of society, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has announced a contest to celebrate New York’s forests. The contest is designed to increase awareness of and appreciation for all types of forests, urban and rural, large and small, public and privately owned, across the state.

“The value of our forests cannot be underestimated,” Commissioner Joe Martens said in a prepared statement. “In addition to providing clean air, clean water and places for wildlife to live, thousands of people are employed in the forest products, outdoor recreation and tourism industries, thanks to New York’s wealth of forest.”

In the 19th century conservationists recognized the importance of nature as a refuge from the noise and bustle of city life. Modern technology has disconnected many people from the outdoors. Virtual pastimes now rival natural, outdoor activities. Taking and sharing pictures is one of the most popular activities in this country. Through this contest, New Yorkers are encouraged to reconnect with the natural world.

Submitted photos should capture all aspects of forests and trees in five different categories:

1. Nature (wildlife, plants, natural landscapes, etc.)

2. Enjoying the forest (hunting, fishing, trails, camping, hiking, etc.)

3. Trees where we live (parks, streets, yards, etc.)

4. Forest products (maple syrup, lumber, baseball bats, furniture, etc.)

5. State-owned Forests (State Forests, Forest Preserve lands, forested Wildlife Management Areas, Campgrounds)

Contest details, rules and necessary forms can be found on DEC’s website.

Photos must be taken in New York State. Photos will be accepted through November 1, 2011. A maximum of three photos may be submitted by a photographer, each with a submission form found on the DEC website, via e-mail or on a CD via regular mail. DEC has non-exclusive rights to use submitted photos on DEC’s website, in the Conservationist magazine, in brochures and in other publications promoting forests and DEC. The photographer will retain ownership of the photo.

The winner in each category will receive a framed print of their photo. Winning photos will be announced on or about December 1, 2011.

Photo: State Forest Boundary Sign Near Ticonderoga (John Warren Photo).

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Phil Brown: East Branch of St. Regis Should be Wild

On Sunday, I took a delightful canoe trip on the East Branch of the St. Regis in the northwestern Adirondacks. It was so enjoyable that I didn’t stop until I reached the end of public land, making for a round trip of twenty miles from Everton Falls.

Four years ago, I had paddled the East Branch in early spring before the greening of the alders and the grasses. On that day the riverside scenery was a bit drab.

How different things are in July. Hues of green were everywhere—in the grasses dancing in the breeze, in the trees beyond the floodplain, and in the river grass bowed by the current. Wildflowers provided dashes of color: the purple whorls of joe-pye weed, the yellow globes of the pond lilies, the drooping scarlet petals of the cardinal flower, the violet spikes of pickerelweed, and the glistening white arrowhead. Add in a blue sky with puffy clouds, and you have the perfect day.

Soon after putting in along Red Tavern Road, I heard one or two passing cars, but as I journeyed farther upstream, I penetrated deeper into the wild where the only sounds were natural: a beaver plopping into the river, the one-note whistle of a red-winged blackbird, a merganser skittering over the water to flee a human intruder.

In ten miles I encountered no development. It’s no wonder that researchers for the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) recommended back in the 1970s that most of this stretch (some eight miles) be designated a Wild River in the state’s Wild, Scenic, and Recreational River System (WSR).

All rivers in the WSR system receive a degree of protection, but Wild is the most protective designation. State regulations prohibit the construction of dams, vehicular bridges, or other structures within a Wild River corridor—not even lean-tos are permitted. The only exceptions are footbridges. Just as important, no motorboats are allowed on Wild Rivers.

If you check the APA land-use map, though, you’ll see that roughly the first fifteen miles of the East Branch, including the stretch I paddled, are designated Scenic and that the rest of the river is designated Recreational. Both are less-restrictive classifications, allowing some development, such as vehicular bridges, and motorboat usage.

Usually, the APA followed the recommendations of its field researchers in classifying rivers. Why not in this case?

In his classic guidebook Adirondack Canoe Waters: North Flow, Paul Jamieson writes that the classification was downgraded “probably at the insistence of a paper company and its lessees” (that is, hunting clubs).

Jamieson’s book came out many years ago. Since then, New York State has purchased this part of the river from Champion International and added it to the forever-wild Forest Preserve. In other words, the original objection to designating part of the East Branch a Wild River no longer obtains. APA spokesman Keith McKeever conceded as much in an article I wrote after my earlier trip up the East Branch. “The big impediment to that classification was that it was private land, and that’s no longer the case,” McKeever said.

Well, then, let’s change the classification to Wild. This would ensure that the river corridor stays pristine and that motorboats will not upset the natural serenity with their noise and pollution.

It also would bestow upon the East Branch a cachet that might attract a few more paddling tourists to a neglected corner of the Adirondack Park.

Of the 1,200 miles of Adirondack rivers in the WSR system, only 155 are designated Wild (about 13 percent). Indeed, there are only thirteen river segments in the entire Park that are classified Wild. They tend to be remote and/or rocky. Only one of them—a long stretch of the Main Branch of the Oswegatchie—is easily accessible and navigable by the average paddler. The East Branch would be in rarefied company.

In truth, I don’t know of any plans to build lean-tos, bridges, or other facilities on the river. And I doubt that motorboats often ply the East Branch. Thus, the reclassification might be seen as more symbolic than practical. But symbolism has its place. Designating the East Branch a Wild River would acknowledge its unspoiled beauty. It’s the least we can do.

Photo by Phil Brown: the East Branch of the St. Regis River.

Phil Brown is the editor of the Adirondack Explorer newsmagazine. Subscribers can read his original story on the East Branch in the publication’s online Adventure Planner.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Adirondack Insects: Paper Wasps

While working around the house this summer, it is not unusual to notice the papery nest of a wasp tucked under the eaves, hidden behind a loose shutter, or placed in some other protected spot. While an encounter with this type of structure may temporarily disrupt a painting project or home repair work, such a sanctuary is vital to the summer success of these familiar yellow and black insects, and should be left alone if at all possible as wasps play a role in helping to control the populations of numerous insects, spiders and other bugs.

Out of an entire summer colony, only a few females that are born in late summer with adequate stores of fat are capable of surviving the winter in the Adirondacks. After abandoning their nest and mating with a male, these individuals typically burrow into the soil, or seek shelter inside a thick, hollow log that will eventually become buried by snow.

During mid spring, when conditions improve, these females emerge from their winter dormancy and begin to search for a sheltered spot in which to construct their papery nest. By chewing on softened pieces of partially rotted wood, and mixing this mass with chemicals in their mouth, the females, known to some as queens, fashion the mixture into a sheet that dries and forms a grayish papery substance. Initially, a small collection of hexagonal cells are produced to house the first eggs laid by the fertile female.

It takes about a week for the eggs to hatch into the tiny, worm-like larvae which remain within the papery walls of their nursery. Because the larvae require a diet high in animal protein, the matriarch of the colony goes in an almost constant search for small insects and other types of invertebrates to appease their appetite.

It takes almost two weeks before the immature wasps are ready to enter the pupa stage, and then nearly two more weeks before the transition into an adult wasp is completed. During this period, the female may add more cells to her infant colony and lay more eggs in order to increase the number of individuals that eventually will inhabit the nest.

By the start of summer, her first in a series of adult offspring emerge from their cells. All of these are females, and they instinctively assume the various chores that must be carried out to maintain the colony. The fertile female eventually settles into the role of simply laying eggs in cells constructed by the recently hatched workers.

During the early summer, wasp colonies are relatively small and contain only a limited number of females. As the number of residents increase, the colony’s need for small insects and other bugs to feed the developing larvae increases correspondingly.

While the larvae require a diet rich in protein, the adults need fluids that contain a high caloric content. Nectar from flowers and juices that develop within fruits and berries, like raspberries and blackberries, are traditionally sought out by adult wasps when they want to satisfy their own hunger.

As summer starts to wane in another few weeks, the fertile female slows the rate at which she lays eggs within her paper covered nursery. Since the increased number of worker wasps now has fewer larvae to feed, their search for bugs eventually turns to a search for the more sugary items that they favor. (In late summer, wasps prefer visiting a table with an opened can of soda, a cup of fruit juice, or some flavorful topping dripping from a burger rather than picking aphids or caterpillars from plants in a garden.)

As the fertile female’s source of sperm dwindles, she will lay a few eggs that fail to become fertilized. These eggs still hatch, but the resultant wasps have only a half set of chromosomes. These individuals are males, and their sole purpose is to mate with those females with an excess of fat in their system that are capable of surviving the winter.
While wasps are noted for the painful sting they can inflict, these insects do help the environment by controlling bug populations. Destroying a papery nest in mid summer before the individuals that can survive the winter develop could impact a wasp population in an area. This in turn allows other bugs the freedom to propagate with fewer checks on their numbers. A simple rule that I try to follow whenever I encounter a wasp nest while painting is: leave the painting project until next spring and go out on the lake.

Photo courtesy Wikipedia.

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