[Tweeters] more insect inquiries

Jeff Gibson gibsondesign at msn.com
Fri Aug 22 10:10:11 PDT 2014

I don't know how regularly they do it, but I have seen a Western Tanager eating a Yellowjacket. It held it in it's largish beak and beat it against the limb it was perched on repeatedly to presumably stun it or kill it before eating. Looked like it knew what it was doing.
While not a routine part of my diet, I used a similar technique myself back in high school when I ate a Yellowjacket on a dare.
It all started in Biology class when I slapped a Yellowjacket which was crawling around on a table which happened to be seated by a bunch of bullies I'd been putting up with all through high school. Bullies are often cowards, as these guys were - getting all hysterical about a bug. So walking by I nonchalantly slapped it - which can be done if you're careful, and fast.
That impressed the bullies, for about 5 seconds - then they dared me to eat it. So I quickly picked up the severely stunned insect, carefully by the stinger held flat between thumb and finger and ate it . The trick, unnoticed by these rubes, was that I had the stinger still pinched between my fingers where it couldn't hurt me.
It was a fairly successful gross-out - those guys never really bugged me again after that. By the way, if the bug is still moving when you eat it, you get bonus gross-out points for that.
Jeff GibsonInsectivore

From: barbdeihl at comcast.net
Date: Sun, 17 Aug 2014 13:57:49 -0700
To: Tweeters at u.washington.edu
Subject: [Tweeters] more insect inquiries

This time my questions are the following:
Do any birds or mammals routinely eat wasps and bees ? - I've heard that the larvae are sweet tasting, but it seems the flying adults would give them quite a 'zing on the wing' or cause quite a 'yowl on the prowl', and not be very tasty or worth the pain... Yes, I've seen Merlins snap at (and perhaps swallow )a yellowjacket, but don't know if they do it more than once, when they are curious juveniles. Quick learning curve? Do most of the mammals that go for the honeycomb nest structures, just have 'thick skin' or fur, and put up with the stings and bites, in order to savor the sweet, heavenly ambrosia?
Wasp and bee venom - I just read an article (OK, it was just 'on the internet' and from no acclaimed scientific source). The article (URL below - you'll probably have to copy & paste it into your browser). The article concerns bee venom research and states that early tests on it show some promise for treating a couple types of cancer (examples given are melanoma and breast cancer).
This on the heels of an experience I just had on Friday, when a neighbor-referred wasp eradicator (no poisons used, just a vacuum tube and dry ice) came by to liberate some nesting yellowjackets from one of the eaves on my house. This fellow not only employed an excellent technique, but, instead of tossing the spent little bodies of the wasps in the yard waste or compost heap, he has a working agreement with some wasp-venom researchers, and sends them the dead wasps for their research. Seems like a good way to re-use these helpful, but sometimes pesky and poke-y insects. A win-win-lose-win situation (the wasps, of course, get an untimely death, even though they would die eventually by fall).
Here's a link to some photos with an introductory story, about this event we had over at the Barboretum that calm afternoon!
I did ask WaspMan the question I started this post with - his answer was that raccoons and crows have been known to tear apart the big paper nests in late summer/early fall, to feast on the yummy contents within. This guy isn't a schooled naturalist, but certainly has observed a lot about Vespids since his start trapping them in 1986. Some of you more scientifically/naturalistically-oriented folks likely have a few answers and anecdotes to add to this. Again, either post on Tweeters or send to me off-list, or both. This reminds me that I have more anecdotes from a Tweet or 2 to add to the Merlin/dragonfly thread - will share them soon.
And to all of you who dredged up memories or articles or thoughts about raptors and dragonflies and eating on the wing, THANKS !
Barb DeihlMatthews Beach Neighborhood - NE Seattlebarbdeihl at comcast.net

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