Thursday, 22 August 2013

a field study of wasp intelligence.

Allotment Table Top - 9th September 2008.

Last night we set about the task of extracting the honey from the 'supers' removed from the apiary. We 'mmm'ed' our way through the sticky process of uncapping the honeycomb and using an extractor to centrifugally spin the honey out of the comb. The yield, taste and quality seems good so far and, inbetween our "mmm's" of appreciation, we also discussed the problem of wasps. Their various beneficial and pestiferous characteristics (from a human perspective) were compared and we did not agree on whether or not it would be better not to have wasps at all.

While breathing in the many fragrances of thousands upon thousands of days of honey bee toil my mind drifted back to September 2008 when our allotment table became a site for what might have been some form of written communication between wasps (Vespula vulgaris) and humans. There was a wasp nest under the nearby willow tree. The wasps would emerge from the nest, fly up into the tree and then drop down onto the table. For a while we could not gather around the table for lunch.

Field Study's Man in E17 did, however, venture closer than others to take some snaps of the activities of the wasps on the table top. They were, he assumed, collecting wood fibres from the increasingly weathered surface. The varnish was beginning to crack. To his amazement, the wasps appeared to be inscribing the table with what he saw as symbols. He observed numerous wasps working their way about the surface of the table chewing along the lines of the inscriptions - and, it seemed to him, extending them. I wish, as Field Study's Man in E11, that he had recorded the extent of the inscriptions more diligently - perhaps by making a full scale grid/plan of the table surface and recording each section so as to be able to reproduce the whole communal inscription.

What would you have made of these?

  September 2008

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