Gateway to the Classics: Will o' the Wasps by Margaret Warner Morley
Will o' the Wasps by  Margaret Warner Morley

How the Nest Looks Inside

"P OOR hornets!" said Theodore; "no honey sacs, no pollen baskets on their legs, no wax cells, I suppose, as they do not make wax,—they do not seem to be half as well fitted out as the bees."

"They haven't as many tools," said Uncle Will, "but they have many good ideas,—that about making paper, for instance. How would you like to cut open that big nest we found last year?"

"Oh, goody! Just the thing!" and Theodore began to whack his uncle and jump up and down. "It is beginning to rain, so we can't go out of doors. I'll run up to the garret, Uncle Will o' the Wasps, and get it"; and he was off like a shot.

Soon he came skipping back carrying a large gray wasp's nest, as large as a water pail.

"Here it is," he cried.

"And here is the sword to storm the enemy's castle," said Uncle Will, flourishing the carving knife he had brought from the kitchen.

"Are there any wasps inside?" asked Theodore apprehensively.

"Just look in and see for yourself"; and Uncle Will held up the nest to show the hole at the bottom.

Theodore squinted his eye and looked into the hole.

"Nobody at home," he announced. "Or anyway they haven't lighted the lamps, it is pitch dark inside. I can't see a thing."

"Very well then, we will enter the ogre's den;" and Uncle Will cut the nest carefully open with his big knife. That is, he cut away half the outside covering without injuring the paper combs inside. There they hung, one below the other, most of the caps off and the cells empty.

"A last year's nest," said Uncle Will; "you see it is quite deserted."

"Wouldn't the wasps use it again this year?" asked Theodore.

Uncle Will shook his head. "No, I don't think so. You see, each queen wasps has to start the family all by herself, and it is easier to begin with a single room than to clean out a musty old castle with hundreds of rooms, and nobody to help her."

"It is like a Chinese tower seven stories high," said Theodore, looking at the the flat tiers of cells one above the other.

"Yes, only this is a more wonderful tower than the Chinese build, for it hangs down from the sky instead of being built up from the ground," said Uncle Will, laughing.

"It is hung like a chandelier from the roof, said Theodore, "with a nice space for the hornets to walk about between it and the walls. What thick walls!"

"Yes, and all made of thin sheets of paper," said Uncle Will, loosening a sheet with the point of his pen-knife.

"But you can't take the sheets off whole," said Theodore. "See how they are all fastened together everywhere!"

"Yes, the hornets did not make their paper to be used by anybody but themselves; that is evident. Do you know, I once saw a red hornet's nest? Not bright red, of course, but reddish. And once I found a red-and-yellow yellow jacket's nest."

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