In early autumn I visited Bovey Heath to meet John Walters, a fabulous entomologist, artist and speaker. He’d promised to show me the Heath Potter Wasps, Eumenes coarctatus. They are scarce wasps and have exceptional habits. The attractive black-with-yellow-stripes females build nests made of clay. They really do create pots.
They find water, carry it to a patch of exposed clay, mix it into a clay ball and then carry it and stick it to a branch they have pre-prepared. They gradually build up a tiny rounded pot with a lip.
Then it’s time to lay a single egg dangling from a silk thread inside it and provision it with juicy caterpillars. John has spent thousands of hours up here watching them. He can track them as they fly between water, clay and nest. He can even count the number of caterpillars they provision the nest with. He can change the colour of clay available at the Wasp’s quarry and change the colour of the pot in the middle of building it. He can make time-lapse films of construction. We meet up with Jo Brown (Bernoid) and it’s a pleasure to see her getting as excited as I feel. Here’s her blog all about the experience:
John has published about the Wasps, so we both end up buying the issue of British Wildlife Magazine which features John’s article and beautiful illustrations.
It’s too busy for me to get video or photos of the Wasps themselves so I decide to come back. When I do the Wasps have disappeared, their pot nests have been safely sealed up and I’m going have to wait until next year for my next chance.
I’m looking forward to it.
If only we had more people interested in and passionate about the natural world. As Jo says: “All in all this was an absolutely brilliant day out, I need to go back very soon with my extended team of weirdos!” My view is that all those people who aren’t interested in Heath Potter Wasps? They are the weirdos. We’re the normal ones.