Yellowstone National Park: May 14, 2010
Blacktail Loop Road – a dirt road closed to cars at this time of year, but open to hiking.
Blacktail Loop Road is a blackboard waiting to be read. We hiked in a few days ago and found both wolf and grizzly tracks. The next day it was obvious a wolf had come through again, and a coyote. Today the wolf and grizzly tracks are fading, but I noticed small black wasps, and to my mind comes “spider hunting wasps.” Sure enough. Before long I spot a wasp crossing the dirt road, burdened with an immobilized spider. He crosses the road and I thought lost his spider. The spider got caught up in a one inch tall tangle of vegetation on the edge of the road. The wasp seems to be searching everywhere. I decide to help out – I nudge his spider off the little plant and onto the ground where he can find it. Ha! He came right back and put the spider back on the plant – “Silly woman. Leave my spider alone!” He goes back to searching.
I finally realized he is looking for a place to dig a hole and deposit his spider. Spider hunting wasps immobilize a spider, deposit the spider in a tunnel of their own making, lay an egg on the spider, and close up the tunnel. I must have watched for twenty minutes before I gave up on seeing the end of the story. He searched, napped, disappeared, tried digging in a couple of spots and maybe he just gave up. … or is he off napping again?
But only about fifty feet farther down the road I find another wasp busy starting a hole, and a few feet farther along another hole. Both of these wasp tunnels are dug in indentations made by a bison’s hoof. I think the steep wall of the track provides a damp wall to dig into.
I decide to watch the second hole. Every few seconds fresh dirt is being thrown out. I finally get to see the wasp. It looked like the same species. Suddenly he moves about a foot away and grabs an immobilized spider he has waiting. Getting it down into the hole is a tight fit. Five minutes later he is still trying to wedge his spider down the hole … and we have a dinner date need to get back to town.