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Wasp Nest Project Weathers Storm

by AMNH on

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A brief, blustery storm blew across the Museum’s Arthur Ross Terrace Wednesday evening, taking with it most of the scalloped cardboard structure of a human-sized wasp nest under construction there since Monday. Three British TV hosts are to be filmed living in the nest this weekend as part of a new Nat Geo WILD series called “Live Like an Animal.”

Photo: ©AMNH/R. Mickens

The unexpected need to rebuild the nest or “envelope” provided an object lesson in actual wasp behavior.

“It is a fact that wasps repair the envelope if the damage to the nest is not too great, where ‘too great’ means something like the nest falls down,” says James M. Carpenter, entomologist and curator in the Museum’s Division of Invertebrate Zoology, who is working in consultation with the television crew. “I’ve done experiments in envelope removal in the field myself and seen it.”

Dr. Carpenter, who oversees the world’s largest collection of wasp nests with more than 1,000 specimens, went on to explain that repair is not always an option. “Exceptionally heavy rain can lead to nest abandonment,” he says. “And in the tropics is the cause of nest relocation.”

Fortunately, the nest being featured on the Ross Terrace was salvageable and will be on full display Friday morning at 11 am when children are encouraged to come and quiz Carpenter and the British TV hosts about all things wasp. The Ross Terrace will also be open to the public for extended hours until 9 pm Friday, during which time the TV hosts are expected to take up their 36-hour residence within the nest.