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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 49.djvu/665

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SOCIAL INSECTS.

having attained full growth, they inclose themselves within the cups, with silky convex caps, until their transformation to perfect wasps.

So far as the disposition of the social wasp is concerned, it is a case of being given a bad name, and—well, maltreated. But a wasp seldom attacks when unmolested; yet threaten its citadel, and you will probably have cause to repent, for, with courage that we all must admire, it boldly and persistently resents intrusion on its dwelling and defends against disturbance its helpless young brood.

It combines the most opposed instincts of diet, and is an omnivorous feeder. From the first days of spring till autumn ends, we may see wasps (Vespa) intent upon stealing the sweet vegetable liquor they love; in spring they profit by the blossoms of fruit trees. As the fair profusion of summer changes to the soberer autumn wealth, they are presented with another fertile source of PSM V49 D665 Home of myrapetra scutellaris.jpgFig. 2.—Home of Myrapetra scutellaris. nutriment, and it is then their colonies immensely increase. They fall upon fruits voraciously, the choicest and most ripe, and so have gained for themselves a worse reputation than insects much more injurious. Should the season be warm and the increase of their colonies commensurate with the warmth, as it often is, they become a veritable plague, not only in gardens, but at table they agitate us while they nibble at some luscious dish.

But, hateful marauder though the wasp is in these respects, it is a predaceous as well as a vegetable eater, and thus not devoid of the compensating quality of usefulness in ridding us of many a fly and other pests. The audacity with which it seizes and devours insects is astonishing. The attack is sudden: it will spy a fly on the leaf of a bush, and in the twinkling of an eye is upon it; if large, it is dismembered; head, wings, and legs are torn off, and the trunk is