Or, Aphids + Aspens + Cottonwoods = Wasps
Paper or ground wasps (aka yellow jackets) are carnivorous (a trait that differentiates them from bees – which I will expound on in a forthcoming blog) – hence their propensity to go beserk around pulled pork, smoked fish, and deck grill fests. The boom years of yellow jackets in Interior Alaska is tied to the aphid population – much like the snowshoe hare – lynx cycle (which, I have heard, in is turn tied to sunspot activity, but who knows?). When aphids explode, so does the yellow jacket population, because the yellow jackets feed on the aphids – both the bugs and their nectar – which I fondly refer to as “aphid piss”.
Why aphid piss? Well, because when the aphids are having a banner year, as they are this year, they are so thick in the aspens and cottonwoods (their preferred trees) that when you stand under an aspen, you can feel a light mist of aphid rain ( er, aphid excretion).
So, this summer trees and bushes are caked with the little buggers…cars parked under aspens are coated in a sticky goo (if left on cars, it wrecks havoc on the finish – another little known aphid fact, unless you have lived through previous aphid/yellow jacket boom cycles in Interior), and the maniac buzzing of wasps harvesting their aphid “farms” fills the air. People with few to no aspens or cottonwoods around their houses will correspondingly have fewer problems with yellow jackets.
Probably another reason why Joe Vogler hated aspens*.
* An infamous curmudgeon who met his death at the wrong end of a gun, and was subsequently buried in a shallow grave wrapped in that ubiquitous symbol of Alaskana, the blue tarp, – Joe Vogler was also famous for establishing a covenant in a subdivision he owned that required all residents to eradicate aspens from their properties.