Giant wasps’ nest found in Canary Islands

by Matthew Cobb

It is of course the nest that is giant, not the wasps. But it’s still pretty impressive. In San Sebastián de La Gomera, the port capital of Tenerife in the Canary Islands, police broke into an empty house following complaints from neighbours. Inside they found a wasps’ nest that was allegedly over 7 metres long (it doesn’t actually look that big, but maybe it does back into the room and the photographer – understandably – didn’t want to get that close):

giant-wasp-nest

giant-wasp-nest2

giant-wasp-nest3

 

According to this source:

Experts have examined the nest … and say the common type of wasp found in gardens would never normally build a nest of this size. They believe it must be an invasive species of wasp which had migrated from Africa.The Canary Islands are less than 100 kilometres from Morocco by water.

Ah, those experts. Looks like a large paper wasp to me. But I know only about maggots (I think that’s the way Jerry would like that sentence, though it reads oddly, and would be better as the ungrammatical ‘I only know about maggots’)

Now what are the police going to do? My guess is it will be bad news for the wasps.

Photos: EFE. From

42 Comments

  1. Marella
    Posted April 11, 2013 at 6:15 am | Permalink

    It is of course the nest that is giant, not the wasps.

    So disappointed to read that, though the nest is very impressive.

    • Jeff Johnson
      Posted April 11, 2013 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

      Since grammar enters into the topic in a roundabout way:

      The headline would need to read:

      Giant wasp’s nest found in Canary Islands

      for it to be the wasp that is giant.

      I’m actually glad it isn’t the wasp that is giant. Scary…

      • Diane G.
        Posted April 11, 2013 at 10:07 pm | Permalink

        Not necessarily. It could be a nest of giant wasps.

        • Posted April 16, 2013 at 11:43 am | Permalink

          Is this nest still around? Id love to put this nest in my museum.
          You can check my site out to see what i have,the biggest i have so far is a 6 foot tall yellow jackets nest
          please contact me
          thank you.
          Joe

  2. Mary Canada
    Posted April 11, 2013 at 6:22 am | Permalink

    Fascinating. Any ideas of how long it would take to build it to that size?

    • Posted April 16, 2013 at 11:47 am | Permalink

      Normaly it takes one year to build a nest,depending on the queen and how meny eggs shes has

      • Mary Canada
        Posted April 16, 2013 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

        Whoa, so this could be the product of one queen? Very fertile lady! Thanks for the info

  3. Chris Patrick
    Posted April 11, 2013 at 6:30 am | Permalink

    It’s a shame that this post, for me, was overshadowed by the “I only know” vs “I know only” debacle at the end. That, plus the headline, could make for an article on Language Log.

    • darrelle
      Posted April 11, 2013 at 6:37 am | Permalink

      Please forgive me, but sometimes I just can’t tell. This is intended as humor, correct?

      Well anyway, it did make me laugh.

      • Posted April 11, 2013 at 8:26 am | Permalink

        “grammatically wrong with either” should be “grammatically wrong with it either”

        • gillt
          Posted April 11, 2013 at 10:17 am | Permalink

          “grammatically wrong with either” should be “grammatically wrong with it either”

          I don’t thinks so. The writer is not intending “either” to be synonymous with “as well.” But instead saying that there is nothing wrong with both “only knows” and “knows only,” hence using “either” when instead he/she could have considered using “both” for better clarity.

          • Posted April 11, 2013 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

            Well, I was the writer, and I indeed meant “as well” (hence the clarification. Although I agree with you that there is nothing wrong with either of “know only” or “only know”, I was not making that statement in my comment.

      • Gregory Kusnick
        Posted April 11, 2013 at 10:23 am | Permalink

        The “only know” construction is potentially ambiguous. Not so much in this case, perhaps, but try this one:

        “He said only that he loved her”. (Nothing more needed to be said.)

        “He only said that he loved her.” (He didn’t mean it.)

        Very different meanings there. So one should be careful (especially in written language) not to use the “only said” construction when what one means is “said only”.

        But as always, if there’s little risk of ambiguity, go with what sounds best to you. (In Matthew’s case, I probably would have chosen “All I know about is maggots.”)

        • Posted April 11, 2013 at 11:37 am | Permalink

          I support your line of thinking. As you say, the “only said” construction can be ambiguous. However, the “only know” construction is usually not (in particular, your examples don’t apply), and also seems to be more idiomatic than “know only”, and hence should not be declared ungrammatical on a whim.

    • DV
      Posted April 11, 2013 at 11:22 am | Permalink

      The correct sentence strictly speaking is: “I know about only maggots”.

      • kay
        Posted April 11, 2013 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

        I didn’t know there was such a thing as an only maggot! ;-)

  4. darrelle
    Posted April 11, 2013 at 6:34 am | Permalink

    That is amazing and a bit. . . alarming.

    When I was a young boy, 6 or 7, I got into a wasp nest while playing around near some railroad tracks. The only clear memory I have of the incident is running down the tracks as fast as I could, terrified, as the wasps harassed me. I ended up in the hospital with dozens, over 50 if I recall the story correctly, of wasp stings, mostly on my back. Surprisingly Ive never been anxious about bees, wasps or hornets as a teen or adult, and the actual sting is no more than a momentary, minor irritation.

    But then, I’ve never been stung by that Giant Japanese Hornet. That might smart a bit.

    • Marta
      Posted April 11, 2013 at 9:00 am | Permalink

      Interesting. I’m glad you’re quite well from the attack, but I’d have thought that that many wasp stings might be lethal.

      Maybe I’m just a wuss, but I think bee stings hurt a lot.

      • darrelle
        Posted April 11, 2013 at 9:56 am | Permalink

        Apparently responses can vary widely. At one extreme, some people can die from a single sting, but that is due to an allergic reaction not damages caused directly by the venom. People have survived many more stings than I did. I don’t remember the event very well, but it was not a major medical ordeal. I’ve had a few of those and the wasp incident is barely remembered in the family lore compared to those.

  5. Dominic
    Posted April 11, 2013 at 7:07 am | Permalink

    Hmmmm… (not intended as a wasp sound)
    OED online says-
    “Placed away from the word or phrase which it limits, esp. preceding the main verb.
    Frequent in speech, where stress and pauses eliminate ambiguity; often avoided by careful writers.”
    But –
    It was good enough for Marvell
    “I onely write this word to let you know”
    Dryden
    ” When Beasts were only slain for Sacrifice.”
    Oliver Cromwell
    “Unto the whiche God I have onlye commyttyd my sowlle.”
    & Caxton
    “Luke is only with me.”

    Amazing wasp world!

  6. Dominic
    Posted April 11, 2013 at 7:10 am | Permalink

    “Now what are the police going to do? My guess is it will be bad news for the wasps.”

    Perhaps they will want back rent!

  7. Posted April 11, 2013 at 7:37 am | Permalink

     San Sebastián de La Gomera, is not the port capital of Tenerife in the Canary Islands.  La Gomera is an island of the Canary Islands.  The capital of Tenerife is Santa Cruz. 

    The islands are:-

        Gran Canaria, (capital: Las Palmas de Gran Canaria)

        Tenerife (capital: Santa Cruz de Tenerife)

        Lanzarote (capital: Arrecife)

        La Palma (capital: Santa Cruz de La Palma)

        La Gomera (capital: San Sebastián de La Gomera)

        El Hierro (capital: Valverde)

        Fuerteventura (capital: Puerto del Rosario).

    ________________________________

  8. Posted April 11, 2013 at 7:45 am | Permalink

    I will bet that it is Vespula germanica, which can have large, perennial nests in climates where the workers do not die off at the end of the season due to frost. Interior nests can be quite large.

  9. Reginald Selkirk
    Posted April 11, 2013 at 8:07 am | Permalink

    I think I saw that movie.

  10. David Duncan
    Posted April 11, 2013 at 8:28 am | Permalink

    “Looks like a large paper wasp to me.”

    Hm, I’m no wasp expert but the largest paper wasp nest I’ve seen is about 10 cm long.

    And I want to keep it that way. Wasps terrify me.

    • microraptor
      Posted April 11, 2013 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

      My high school biology teacher had a paper wasp nest (with no wasps in it, of course) in his room that was roughly the size of a basketball.

      • John Scanlon, FCD
        Posted April 19, 2013 at 7:42 am | Permalink

        When I was the museum guy in Mount Isa, a local brought one in that was at least two basketballs’ worth. Can’t remember the details, but probably from inside a tin shed with a rotting wood fame, it’d be just the place. It was pretty dusty and knocked out of shape, but impressive.

  11. jay
    Posted April 11, 2013 at 9:05 am | Permalink

    When I was a kid I stuck my face too close to a paper wasp nest (watching larvae) . Got hit with 35 stings (17 on my face) . Learned something.

  12. horrabin
    Posted April 11, 2013 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    The first photo looks stretched horizontally. Not sure why someone did that, it’s pretty impressive already.

  13. Gregory Kusnick
    Posted April 11, 2013 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    But I know only about maggots (I think that’s the way Jerry would like that sentence…)

    I expect he’d like it even better with a period.

    May I suggest “My specialty is maggots” or something along those lines, since I’m sure there are many things you know about in addition to maggots.

  14. Marcoli
    Posted April 11, 2013 at 11:13 am | Permalink

    Yikes. I thought the wasps like that (hornets) were annual. I am doubting that would be true here for this species. A nest that size must surely have multiple queens.

  15. Marcoli
    Posted April 11, 2013 at 11:16 am | Permalink

    Just got back from Jerry Coyne’s talk at Oakland. I loved it.

  16. Matt G
    Posted April 11, 2013 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

    Did anyone else see an image of the Virgin Mary in that nest?

    • microraptor
      Posted April 11, 2013 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

      No, but there’s a gorilla’s face in the third photo.

  17. Diane G.
    Posted April 11, 2013 at 10:13 pm | Permalink

    1. How cool is that?!

    2. Surprised it wasn’t “African Killer Wasps” that was suggested… *rolls eyes*

    3. If this website is going to become a nest of grammatical nitpickers it’s going to lose a lot of its appeal for me. (Even though I tend to be one myself.)

  18. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted April 12, 2013 at 12:44 am | Permalink

    Hmm, I hate wasps.

    We had a wasps nest establish itself in a pencil conifer right by our back door. They cut an entry hole about 2″ across in the vegetation.

    I bought (from the supermarket) the cheapest can of fly spray and the cheapest can of ‘crawling insect killer’ I could find, observed the nest through the adjacent window till there weren’t too many wasps hovering around, darted out the door and emptied a quarter can of fly spray into the hole and a quarter can of crawling insect killer around the edges, and nip smartly back indoors again. Wait for a while and repeat.

    Followed up a few days later. It worked.

    The following year the wasps tried again with the tree. Same result.

    One day they’ll evolve and make a nest out of reach and I’ll be snookered.

  19. Posted April 12, 2013 at 8:59 am | Permalink

    Reblogged this on Oily Mud on a Piece of Cloth and commented:
    Isn’t the form of this nest, shared over at Jerry Coyne’s “Why Evolution Is True” quite beautiful? Strange undulations in whatever fibre the wasps secrete and build from, and the way the wasps themselves pepper it. We all know there’s a lot of beauty in nature, but sometimes it creeps in in the strangest places.

  20. Keith
    Posted April 12, 2013 at 11:58 am | Permalink

    Call terminix quick!

  21. exsumper
    Posted April 12, 2013 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

    Shouting “I’ve got it”, “I’ve got it”, My apprentice produced from a roof void, not the ball of fire foam and cable end that he thought he had, but a football sized wasps nest. He promptly dropped it. Coward that I am, I equally promptly slammed the door to the cupboard and ran away.

    He sure got it!!!.

  22. Ian Quay
    Posted April 12, 2013 at 7:51 pm | Permalink

    Mark could be right — given the mild climate of the Canary Islands and if there was an ample food supply, the nest in the video may have been there for many years…

  23. BillyJoe
    Posted April 13, 2013 at 2:40 am | Permalink

    “I only know about maggots”
    “I know only about maggots”

    Nope.
    I know about only maggots


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