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Buzzing Questions




I have a question for Jim Weidert on scientific nomenclature for what appears to be actually three species of yellowjackets or wasps ("The Hornet Whisperers," July 8). The first mentioned is the aerial jellowjacket, "Dolichovespula arenaria," which nests mostly above ground. The second mentioned is the common yellowjacket, but was not given a genus-species pair. I assume that it is a "Dolichovespula," species but no Latin species name was given. I presume the common yellowjacket is the one that usually nests in the ground or in brush piles, which I have accidentally stomped on a few times, getting some nasty surprises. The last and third is the beautiful black (sometimes blue?) and white bald-faced hornet, "Dolichovespula maculate," which I understand is not a true hornet. So what is the genus-species Latin name for the common yellow jacket? Also, what do the roots of these Latin names mean, just out of curiosity?

Another question: What are some examples of "true hornets" and their scientific names?

My last question, which comes with an anecdote, is how do bald-face "hornets" nest and what do they feed on? I worked in a Northern Idaho lookout tower (Freezout -- now demolished, I think) decades ago, and one hot August day I had left the door to the tower open briefly and in breezed a bald-face hornet. It went into a parabolic (hyperbolic?) maneuver from floor to ceiling. I don't think it was agitated but I didn't want to swat it. I reopened the door hoping it would find its way out, which it finally did, to my relief. The maneuver reminded me quite a bit of the California Academy of Sciences pendulum near the planetarium which people watch for many minutes hoping to see a pin get knocked over as the earth spins. I was getting hypnotized watching it (both pendulum and the hornet).

David Ammerman, Cutten



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