News & Notes

Who has been chewing on our building?

Thursday, August 11th, 2016
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While photographing a Sigmoid Prominent outside our Environmental Center, I noticed a series of long narrow marks along the wood siding of the building. We shared a photo of them as a quiz on our Facebook page. Do you know who made these bizarre markings?

quiz photo

It didn’t take long before their creator returned and continued the job:

Bald-faced Hornet from Doug Hitchcox on Vimeo.

If you guessed Bald-faced Hornet in our photo quiz, you are correct! Points will also be awarded to anyone who guessed one of the ‘paper nest wasps’ (or anything in Vespidae) as I doubt this photo is diagnostic for a single species. These wasps (they are not actually hornets) will use dead wood for constructing their large papery nests. Here is an excerpt from a PennState’s College of Agricultural Science ‘Entomological Notes’ with details on their nesting process:

The queen collects cellulose from weathered and rotting wood, chews the wood adding her saliva, and takes this paste and makes a papery material to construct the nest. She creates a few brood cells within the nest and deposits eggs in them and feeds the larvae when they hatch. This first brood will assume the duties of nest building, food collection, feeding the larvae and protecting the nest. As the summer progresses, the colony grows until there may be 100 to 400 workers.

We currently have one of these nests on display in our Discovery Room at Gilsland Farm

bfho nestAnd here is a closeup of the nest showing how the color of each ‘layer’ varies depending on the color of the substance the wasps are using to make it.

nest closeup


-DougDoug Hitchcox Head Shot - please credit  M. Kathleen Kelly (1)

Meet Doug Hitchcox, Maine Audubon Staff Naturalist A Maine native, Doug grew up in Hollis and graduated from the University of Maine in 2011. Throughout college Doug worked at Scarborough Marsh Audubon Center and was hired as Maine Audubon’s staff naturalist in the summer of 2013, a long time “dream job.” In his free time, Doug volunteers as one of Maine’s eBird reviewers, is the owner and moderator of the ‘Maine-birds’ listserv and serves as York County Audubon board member and Secretary of the Maine Bird Records Committee.

Submit your question for Doug: