Tag Archives: paper wasp (Polistes annularis)

Surface tension

A maple leaf floating on water (20080921_12654)

So we have pierced the surface tension of a new year and plunged headlong into 2013.  This must come as quite a surprise to the doomsayers who ignorantly presumed the end of the Mayan calendar was a prophecy about the end of the world.

(It was, in point of fact, nothing of the sort.  It was not a prediction but it was the end of a calendar, just like December 31 is the end of the Gregorian calendar and happens once a year.  These same blind believers never think December 31 is the end of the world simply because the calendar ends; instead, they buy a new calendar.  Yet somehow, looking at the Mayan long-count calendar, they saw doomsday prophecies instead of the need for a new calendar.  And though the Mayans somehow missed predicting the end of their own civilization—they never saw that coming—they were nevertheless endowed with the unquestionable prescience to know when the world would end.  Never mind the fact that real Mayan prophecies include events well past December 21, 2012, another inconvenient truth easily ignored by the great unwashed.  But I parenthetically digress…)

Though I don’t make New Year’s resolutions—they symbolize weakness because anyone who needs a new year in order to better themselves is (a) lacking in willpower and (b) destined to fail for the same reasons they didn’t try to better themselves before the new year began—I do have plans for 2013.

First, I hope to publish two novels.  This of course depends greatly on when the first one finally hits print.  Early enough in the year and the second can easily fit within the next twelve months; later in the year, however, and the second will likely be pushed into 2014.  My sincere intent is to have both published in 2013.  They will be the first and second installments of a series.

Next, I want to keep this blog going.  Since February will mark the tenth anniversary of xenogere (and jasonhogle.com, it’s predecessor and now sister site), I feel the endeavor and subsequent accomplishment are well worth my time.  And as I get my novels published and get my (more) public writing career started, xenogere could grow into more than it is.  Then again, it could also stay the same.  Only time will tell.

Third, I intend to publish my first nature photography book, coffee-table size.  I have talked about this goal for some time, yet I’ve never made it happen.  I want to change that trend.  Coupled with writing—some of it gleaned from this blog and some of it original—the book will provide eye candy as well as mind and heart candy.

Fourth, I will buy a RV.  Just sayin’.

In addition, I will either purchase an additional vehicle—a SUV—or I will trade in my IS 300 on said SUV (preferably the former, but I’ll accept the latter).

Sixth, I might launch an author page on Facebook and I will launch one on Goodreads.  I don’t consider social networking to be that important in my life.  I can take it or leave it, especially Facebook, hence that idea is a might do and Goodreads is a will do.

Seventh, I plan to return to Dallas to visit friends and family, and likewise I will travel to Idaho to visit my sister and her family, and similarly I will travel to New York to visit family, and additionally I will travel to where ever to visit other friends and family.  Assuming I plan and execute some book signings, I’ll travel elsewhere, and perhaps I’ll consolidate a few of these trips.

Also, I want to continue expanding my photography work (camera upgrades included).  Here in Jefferson I’ve had the chance to delve into other areas of that hobby, and I’ve been asked to continue branching out by way of specific projects and requests.  Making it a paying gig will be nice.

Ninth, I will keep writing.

Tenth, I aim to continue being as much help to my parents as possible.

Eleventh, I’d like to get involved with local newspapers and magazines (believe me, they need the help).  In what capacity I don’t know, at least not yet, but it’s something I’d like to do.

And finally, I mean to inject myself into the area in which I now live.  By that I mean meeting more people and making new friends, delving into whatever social and cultural offerings can be found here in the Piney Woods (and surrounding area), and otherwise becoming an active member of this dispersed, bucolic-cum-townish, diverse environment.

This is by no means an exhaustive representation of my to-do list, but it’s a good representation of the plans I have heading into 2013.  After all, we’ve pierced the surface tension of a new year.  Now it’s time to swim in the temporal river of possibility.

A paper wasp (Polistes annularis) standing on shallow water to drink (2009_03_08_012965)

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  1. Maple leaf floating on water: unless something lands on the leaf or the leaf degrades enough to take on water, it will not break through the lake’s surface tension and sink like many of its brethren.
  2. Paper wasp (Polistes annularis) standing on water to drink: as long as it lands lightly with its legs spread, a wasp is light enough to stand on water’s surface tension, though in this case the wasp has pierced the surface with one of its legs.

A most bizarre encounter

Paper wasp (Polistes annularis) perched on a rock (20080727_10231)

Despite being one of the larger paper wasp species, Polistes annularis seems doomed to lurk in the shadows of its more showy cousins the red wasp and the yellowjacket.  And while all three live in my area (along with a legion vast of other wasp species), P. annularis remains the most recognizable due to its colors and size.

Paper wasp (Polistes annularis) perched on a rock while drinking from a small pond (20080727_10243)

Formidable would be one way to describe them.  Yet unlike some paper wasps who simply have a mean streak a mile long, this one reminds me of most wasp species by exhibiting the do-unto-others mentality: don’t mess with me and I won’t mess with you.

Which leads me to a most bizarre encounter from a few days ago.

Along the trail leading from my home to White Rock Lake, I came across one of these wasps who seemed imminently distracted by a twig it was nibbling on with much fervor and passion.  Chewing up wood to make pulp to build a nest is a common sight with paper wasps, so nothing about the scene struck me as odd.

Paper wasp (Polistes annularis) dismembering a northern walking stick (Diapheromera femorata) (2009_07_26_027817)

I knew it was too dark for any good photos; still, I knelt a few meters/yards away and snapped a picture for my records (I always keep track of what I see even if I don’t use the images).

That’s when I noticed the twig was moving.

Only then did I realize it had legs.  And a head.  And eyes.  I also noticed not all the body parts were intact.

Paper wasp (Polistes annularis) dismembering a northern walking stick (Diapheromera femorata) (2009_07_26_027820)

The wasp was chewing on a northern walking stick (Diapheromera femorata).  It seemed intent on dismembering the larger insect.  Already the flying critter had removed four out of six legs along with both antennae.  It then turned its attention to splitting open the thorax with its powerful mandibles.

Paper wasp (Polistes annularis) dismembering a northern walking stick (Diapheromera femorata)(2009_07_26_027822)

A closer look at the walking stick’s head made clear significant damage had been done by the wasp.  Most disturbing was the anthropomorphic look of horror on its face: mouth torn open such that it looked like a gasp of terror etched permanently by a slow and agonizing death.

Paper wasp (Polistes annularis) dismembering a northern walking stick (Diapheromera femorata) (2009_07_26_027824)

When a passerby with a dog came too close, the wasp took flight and circled a nearby tree.  The walking stick lay alone for only a few moments before the wasp returned and continued its assault.

A dismembered northern walking stick (Diapheromera femorata) lying on the ground (2009_07_26_027827)

I can’t fathom why the wasp spent so much time attacking the walking stick.  Even if the nest had been threatened, would that warrant the wasp’s continued attention, especially by means of butchering the walking stick?  And when chased away by circumstance, why would the wasp return to continue its surgical strike?

Perhaps continued research on this phenomenon will yield clues as to the cause of this exceptionally intriguing and utterly strange behavior.  For now, though, I can only assume the wasp was really pissed off and translated that into a really bad day for the walking stick.