Bird's Eye View of Bute

The Horntail

The Horntail

The Horntail

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 The Giant Wood Wasp or Horntail made plenty of appearances during the summer months of 2010, much to the annoyance of a great deal of the public on Bute.


2010 was a good year for these species, with many sightings, with some causing a great deal of stress to those who came in contact with them.
Most people knew that they were not the usual common wasp that want's your ice cream or coke, but were unsure what they were called, and if they would give a nasty sting?
One was brought to my door after a phone call to see if I was at home. He knew what it was but wanted confirmation, and this is the one that you see now, on my hand with no thought about biting me, as that is something that they don't do.

What looks like very large sting in its tail is called a ovipositor which the female uses to lay it's eggs in wood, with pine being the favourite, and this is absent on the male.
Their size of 30mm, about an inch and a quarter makes them rather frightening.

Another lady at the Ascog area had a few of them in her garden, and new what they were and got a photo of one to show me, and had no fear of them, but, as they have the same black and yellow colour as the wasps that frequent our land, our minds tell us to avoid, and even to kill them because they think that they are a big threat to us.

In my younger days, time was spent sliding 'penny bangers' into their nests and watching the wasps emerging from them in a hurry, and looking for the cause of this chaos and when seeing us, headed straight in our direction. A high speed evacuation of us then took place amid screams from some of us being stung with one of our group being stung on his tongue, which in turn caused big problems with that said tongue swelling up, and he had to run at high speed to the Victoria Hospital for help, which, as we were on Meadows Road, he had not far to go, and with other wasps around him he would have put Roger Bannister to shame with his speed.

When we were young, a wasp’s sting did not seem to be that sore, just annoying, or we would have not frequented their domain, but we gave them lots of hassle, and got our well-deserved stings from them.
Then about ten years ago at Ettrick Bay I got stung on my finger, and the pain was excruciating, but help was at hand with a young lady who had a tube of stuff, which when put on my finger gave instant relief.

The Bute Highland Games was a big draw for the wasps, with fruit juice, ice cream cones (pokey hats) and wafers (sliders) on the go, was a great magnet for them, and as the games are held in mid-August this is nearing the time that they are looking for sweets things , like rotten fruit or any sweet things to tide them over the winter, so they head for us and all you needed is for one cry of 'Wasps' and there was a quick evacuation of that spot.

Many years later as I was an apprentice joiner and was working on the Victoria Hospital Extension, The howf (portacabin) was situated below large trees which were crawling with wasps in the last gasp for life and were falling to the ground, or in some cases down our necks, so myself and others got stung, and to summon it all up they were a pain in the neck. Between them and rats it was, well that is another story.

As you can see this wood wasp is a lot bigger that our usual wasp, and the bigger the wasp the bigger the bite? But not in the case. It is a gentle giant, so do not harm and it will go about its business and leave you alone.


Norrie Mulholland.

First Published in the Buteman 11-02-2011.




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