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Human-Sized Wasp Nest Has Ross Terrace Abuzz

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Anyone dropping by the Ross Terrace during the day this week can witness the spectacle of three British TV hosts building and then living in a human-sized replica of a wasp’s nest. The feat will be filmed as part of a new series called “Live Like an Animal.”

Consulting with Nat Geo WILD crew is James M. Carpenter, entomologist and curator in the Museum’s Division of Invertebrate Zoology.  In this video, Dr. Carpenter takes you behind the scenes of the Museum’s Hymenoptera collection which includes the world’s largest collection of wasp nests with more than 1,000 specimens as well as the 7.5 million-specimen gall wasp collection donated to the Museum in 1958 by the widow of Alfred C. Kinsey:


The primary focus of Dr. Carpenter’s work is the wasp family Vespidae, a group of nearly 5,000 described species that encompasses the most sophisticated societies among the social wasps, i.e., ones that build large, communal nests. (Gall wasps, by contrast, are solitary; they lay their eggs, fly away, and never have contact with their offspring again.) Carpenter’s special concentration is on the commonly known yellowjackets and hornets. For amazing, close-up views of some of Dr. Carpenter’s specimens, visit the current exhibition Picturing Science: Museum Scientists and Imaging Technologies in the Akeley Gallery on the second floor.

The nest being featured on the Ross Terrace is something of a yellowjacket hybrid, incorporating some of the more interesting elements of nest structure and behavioral patterns of the common wasp (Vespula vulgaris) and the European or German Wasp (Vespula Germanica)—both known as yellowjackets in the United States.

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