Wasps native to the Western US, found nesting in empty beekeeping equipment
Over the past few months I've come across the nests of two species of wasps native to the Western US, among other areas. They were found in empty hives. Wasps are fascinating creatures, and while few are propagated for use by humans most contribute to pollination and many (including the commercially available species, often parasitoids) contribute millions of dollars annually to the US in the form of natural pest control (by either predation or parasitism of crop pest species).
Many photos and some brief write-ups in the following links:
Many people often respond to wasps with the "burn it with fire" mentality. Why so quick to dismiss wasps? I work for a commercial beekeeper so I'm qualified to say that sometimes bees are a**holes too. Yet everyone joins the "save the bees" bandwagon despite the fact that honeybees are a nonnative species in America. Besides being pollinators themselves, wasps contribute arguably more to our lives in the form of pest control. Most wasps are either predatory or parasitoids of known pest insects such as cabbage moths, aphids, and grasshoppers, among many many others. This is estimated to equate millions of dollars of free pest control services annually for the US alone.
The vast majority of wasps are not aggressive, but a very small group of social genera give the whole a bad name. Paper wasps (Polistes sp. and others), however, are not particularly defensive or aggressive and will bump into the perceived threat before stinging. Yellowjackets and true hornets (Vespula and Vespa, respectively) as well as aerial yellowjackets or bald faced hornets (genus Dolichovespula) can be aggressive if they perceive a threat to their nest, otherwise they will (in my experience) leave you alone. When they are nectaring on flowers, they are all extremely docile, so much so that you can practically pet them.
Re: Wasps native to the Western US, found nesting in empty beekeeping equipment
Since going (nearly) organic I see lots of blue winged wasps. The first year I quit treatment my lawn and garden were over run with Japanese beetles. The second year I saw dozens if not hundreds of blue wasps doing circles through my lawn. At first I panicked and until I did a google to find what they were.
Third year Japanese beetles were very diminished and have been declining in number ever since. My theory is that as I quit chembombing nature comes back into balance. Wasps are just part of the big picture. I see more ladybugs, praying mantis, and less pests every year. Now with the bees I'm even more hesitant to treat unless all else fails.