Thursday, May 14, 2009
Out, Out Dastardly Beast
In addition to having House Wren predators in the bluebird nestboxes at Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden, there is a serious problem with paper wasps. Last year only one box was taken over by them, and we learned not to go near that particular box. Our thoughts were to let the wasps have that one, and we designated it the "bad wasp box." This year it's a very different story. Wasps have moved into four of the boxes and that represents twelve percent of the boxes along the bluebird trail.
Early in the monitoring season and before the birds started placing nesting material in the boxes, we lined the inside of the tops with aluminum foil. We pre-cut the foil and secured it with double-sided tape. It was our understanding that the wasps prefer the top sides of the boxes, but now we know that isn't always the case. The vertical sides are also enticing. When the weather was still cool in the mornings, we made an attempt to remove the wasps and the stem/core of the beginning nests. We thought we were quite brave, both the one using the "weapon", in this case an umbrella, as well as the one taking the picture. However, the following week the beast was in the box again, building a new nest in the same spot.
Since then it has been an on-going battle and we are in a dilemma as to what to do. We don't want to spray the boxes with insecticide as that would contaminate them for future use by the birds. We have read that rubbing a bar of soap on the insides will keep the wasps from building, but that seemed too labor-intensive. After all, the two of us are volunteers here at the garden. We have other lives, too. We've considered removing the affected boxes from their poles but, again, who is brave enough for this job?
So don't let this little soliloquy discourage you from establishing your own bluebird trail. Just know that the Eastern Bluebird has a few challenges of its own. Checking boxes each week gives us great pleasure, but we do give the ones with wasps in them wide berths.