Gateway to the Classics: Display Item
Margaret Warner Morley

Madam Vespa Starts Her Nest

A S summer advances, warm and sunny, the hornets hang their big paper nests in the trees of the forest. Sometimes, however, they do not go to the woods, but build in sheds or under the eaves of houses. It was in a corner of the barn that Uncle Will discovered a white-faced hornet just starting a nest. Of course he went right off to find Theodore.

"Since you like wasps so well you must get acquainted with hornets and yellow jackets, and if they sting you—why, that will impress them all the better on your memory."

"I have got all over wanting to get stung," said Theodore, hammering his uncle, "but I want to see more wasps at work. Do hornets make mud nests?"

"What a silly young cave-dweller you are! You know perfectly well what kind of nests hornets make. You have seen a dozen hornet's nests if you have seen one."

"Do you mean—are we really to see—can we watch the hornets make one of those big gray nests we find empty in the fall of the year?" and Theodore fairly gasped at the idea.

"At least we can see the very beginning of one," said Uncle Will, laughing at Theodore's excitement. "And here, if I mistake not, is Madam Vespa herself making wood pulp"; and Uncle Will pointed to an old fence rail, on top of which a large hornet was industriously chewing out of the wood.

"My!" said Theodore, "won't she sting us?"

"Not unless we touch her," answered Uncle Will. "You see, she is too busy to think of stinging unless she is obliged to."

"See!" cried Theodore, "she has made a little ball and flown off with it."

"We will watch for her return," said Uncle Will, seating himself comfortably on a pile of boards, while Theodore seated himself comfortably on Uncle Will.

In a few minutes back came the hornet, and soon fell to work chewing the fence rail again, while Uncle Will and Theodore looked on silently for a while. Then Theodore said, "How different hornets are from wasps."

"How different hornets are from other wasps," corrected Uncle Will, "for hornets, you know, are wasps. They belong to the great wasp family, only to a different branch of it from Pelopaeus."

"What kind of wasps are they?" asked Theodore; and Uncle Will replied:

"We might call them paper-makers. Vespa is their family name. Vespa Maculata is the name of the white-faced one, if you want to know it all."

"Is she named that because of her white face?" asked Theodore, remembering the meaning of Pelopaeus.

"Perhaps because her face is spotted," said Uncle Will, "for maculata means spotted. But see, while we have been talking she has finished her little ball and gone."