Paper Polly and her Upside-down Babies

If we want to watch insects, we must get over being disgusted with worms. Most insects are worm-like at first, and we must remember that they are just as clean as many other creatures, and in some cases, prettier. The insect mother sometimes nurtures her babies with as much care as a human mother, and no doubt takes pride in their undeveloped features.

One kind of paper wasp has to feed her babies while they hang upside down. Perhaps the mother wasp finds it easier to feed them in that position. At any rate, she builds her nest hanging down, and her grub children have to do the best they can to stay in. How uncomfortable a human baby would be in that position! But the wasp babies know just what to do to make themselves snug and happy.

The old wasp makes a paper stem, which she glues up on the wall. Then she chews more wood pulp, which she scrapes off trees and fences, and builds eight or ten open cells, attaching them to the stem, and lays a sticky egg in each grey paper tube.

When the white grubs hatch, their tails stick fast in what is left of the egg; and as they grow and grow, they make more glue themselves, to keep in place. There they hang, heads down; and the mother wasp has to work the livelong day putting a sweet brown juice into their hungry mouths. She makes this juice from the water in fruit, mixed with anything meaty she can find --from old bones lying about, or dead birds. Sometimes she dashes into kitchens and gets a bite of meat.

The first wasps that come out are all big sisters; and good sisters they are, helping their mother to build new cells and feed the new babies. The old wasp has little to do now but lay eggs.

When the baby grub gets so fat it can eat no more, it goes to sleep in a silk blanket, and wakes up one day a real wasp. Before it can wrap itself up, it must take the end of its body out of the glue that held it fast, head down; and then it would surely fall out of its grey paper pocket. But the little grub does not fall out.

Watch it now, making a piece of paper cloth to cover the opening and make a rest for its head. With its tail still fast, it runs its mouth around the circle of the opening, laying down the glue. Now it begins to move its head back and forth. At first we cannot see what it is doing, so fine are the threads it is spinning. Though human eyes cannot see the first strands, the baby grub sees to it that they catch in the glue, which hardens while it spins.

Now its head goes up and down, weaving the next threads upon the strands which we could not see. We can see the beginning of its pillow now - just a film over the opening; and we can see its little head still moving, spinning back and forth and up and down. After a while, we cannot see the baby grub, still working behind the cloth that it must weave soft to rest its head upon, and firm to keep it from falling out as it goes to sleep upside down.

Now it is spinning something else - a silk basket. It pulls its body out of the gluey egg stuff, and turns around, winding itself up in a soft blanket of silk.

Isn't it a good baby to spin and weave its own pillow and blanket? Though it is a fat little maggoty thing, we have to admire it, and very soon we wonder why we ever thought it horrid looking.

The body of this wasp is mostly yellow. Its feelers and wings are reddish brown. Its family name is Polistes. We might call it Polly for short, not forgetting that it is the Paper Polly of the open cells and the upside down babies.

Now how would evolution tell this story? It would say it took millions of years for Paper Polly to learn how to make paper nests. In the mean time, she laid her eggs on the ground and each one got eaten up. Then after she learned how to make paper nests she laid the eggs in the upside-down nest and for millions of years they all fell out and were eaten up, because she did not know how to make them sticky. Then when she could make them sticky, as soon as the baby hatched, it fell out because it didn't know how to fasten its tail in the glue, so it would not fall.

Silly idea isn't it? Everything had to work right, or Paper Polly would not survive. God made Paper Polly with everything she needed.
Adapted Our Little Friend JUNE 9, 1916. =^..^=

How a butterfly grows