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

Some Other Masons

"I have found a lovely blue wasp making its nest," said Theodore, running to his uncle. "Where is it?" and Uncle Will looked almost as excited as Theodore.

"Come along and see!" and they both ran to the henhouse, where Theodore pointed to a spot under the eaves. Sure enough, there was a bright blue wasp, shining like polished metal, and as busy as could be making its mud cells.

"What a beauty!" exclaimed Uncle Will.

"Beauty, I should think so!" cried Theodore jumping up and down with delight to think he had found it. "And it is a Pelopaeus; you said so, Uncle Will."

"Yes, it is a sort of cousin to our little brown friend whom we watched making her cells. There are several members of the Pelopaeus family, and this is one of the prettiest. Now come and see what I have found"; and Uncle Will led the way to the barn and pointed to what looked like a Pelopaeus nest, only it was nearly six inches long.

"My!" cried Theodore, "whoever heard of a wasp as long as that! Where is she?" and he looked apprehensively around.

Uncle Will laughed. "Don't be afraid," he said; "the builder of this nest is no larger than our little friend under the shed roof, but she has a slightly different way of nest-building. You see, instead of making a separate cave for each of her children, she makes one long one, and when she has put a number of spiders in the far end of it and laid an egg, she plasters up the opening with a neat partition. Then she brings more spiders, lays another egg, and again plasters up the opening. Thus she continues until she has made a line of cells all under one roof as it were. When this is done, she often makes another long canal beside the first one, and partitions it off in the same way."

"Dear me!" said Theodore, "I should think it would be easier to put all the spiders and eggs in one room. Why does each wasp child need a separate house?"

"Well, you see," said Uncle Will, pinching Theodore's ear, "the wasp babies are greedy little rogues, and since their mother goes away and leaves them to hatch out and grow up by themselves, if they were all together the strongest ones might eat up the share of the weaker ones, and even eat up the weaker ones themselves."

"Why, they would be no better than cannibals!" cried Theodore, aghast.

"Oh, but these young babies do not know any better."

"I see," said Theodore; "each one has to have its own pantry."

"And not be able to get into anybody else's pantry," added Uncle Will.

"I suppose," said Theodore, "the young wasps eat their way out by the roof so as not to get into their neighbor's place."

"I don't wonder you think so," said Uncle Will; "but the truth is, they all come out of the same opening. It is curious but true that the last egg laid is the first to hatch. The youngest nibbles a hole in the partition that leads out of doors, and when it has vacated the premises the one next behind eats through the partition into the empty cell and follows out through the open door."

"That is wonderful," said Theodore.

"It certainly is," said Uncle Will. "And now perhaps you would like to see the nest of the daintiest of all our masons. I found one on a bush this morning, and left it here for you."

"Why!" exclaimed Theodore, as Uncle Will showed him what he had found, "is that a wasp's nest? It looks like a little toy jug."

"Isn't it pretty, though!" said Uncle Will, as much pleased with it as Theodore himself.

"But did a wasp really make it?"

"Yes, indeed, and here she comes, for evidently it is not quite finished."

Sure enough, there came flitting along a graceful little wasp that began at once to plaster up the neck of the tiny vase, while Theodore and Uncle Will watched in eager delight.

"That is certainly the most interesting bit of pottery I ever saw made," said Uncle Will.

"How funny to build your house in the shape of a vase!" exclaimed Theodore.

"Yes, but aren't you glad she does?" added Uncle Will.

"I wonder what other wasp potters there are," said Theodore.

"I do not know about any others around here, unless you can call those little rascals that I once saw plastering up keyholes potters."

"Plastering up keyholes!" echoed Theodore. "Why were they doing that?"

"Probably," said Uncle Will, "because they don't see any use in building a house for themselves when they can find so good a one already provided by the keyhole. All they had to do was to plaster up the opening—and there they were!"

"But when somebody comes along and puts in the key, what then?"

"Oh, then they discover they have just committed an error in judgment," said Uncle Will, laughing.

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