"Bayou Bill" Scifres
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New Kid On Fish Bait Street
Copyright © 2008 by Bill Scifres

I can’t say for sure . . . yet . . . but I think I have “discovered” a natural fish bait that will be just as good (maybe better) than hickory nut worms and other much used members of the maggot tribe, larval stage of the common paper wasp (Polistes fuscatus). 

I came eyeball-to-eyeball with these insects last Sunday while hooking up an electric hedge trimmer to an outdoor light. The wasps (about a dozen) had built their paper-like nest (comb) in the light fixture and were busily engaged in populating the world with young of their kind.  I, of course, wanted to plug into the outlet. The adult wasps (my young daughter used to call them “waspus”) were something of a threat to my plan. So, with a can of insect spray, I dosed the adults and raked out their gray paper nest (white caps covering the larvae in their little cells) and it fell to the earth at my feet. 

Facing no real threat from the adults (they are a rather docile insect), my first thought was to step on the paper comb and forever end the threat of living with more of their ilk. But then the little nest (two inches in diameter) looked so interesting that I picked it up. Then, a closer inspection started unfolding before my very eyes (and in my faulty cerebellum). Why not, I thought, check them out. So I pulled off one of the little whiten caps that covered a single chubby, little (half an inch) larva that occupied each of several cells. Then thunder struck home. Fish bait! Why hadn’t I thought of that before? So I hurried to my den, found a vacant jar to hold the comb, and started my fish bait experiment. 

There was no proof, wasp larvae were a completely new thing . . . at least for fish bait . . . and I vowed to put them to the acid test in this little bluegill-bass pond of my acquaintance. More on that later. But the little hickory nut worm like critters should do the job when impaled on a small hook (say something less than a quarter-inch gap) and flipped in with my little flyrod. After all, 'gills go "gaga"over all sorts of insect larva. Why not that of the wasp, more specifically, my wasp. I will let you know. But first I must  write that there are several species of wasps and they build a variety of nests in which to brood their offspring. Still another candidate for this little scheme could be the potter wasp, that builds a ball-like series of cells, and the one  we used to call the “mud dobber” that builds elongated nests on the sides of buildings. They must all host larva. 

As one who has dipped a great variety of natural baits over the years, I find the propensity of wasp larva, and the processes by which they come to life, absolutely enthralling. So, take heed, hickory nut worms, mousies, golden grubs and others, there could be a new kid on Fish Bait Street. 

Click on thumbnail image for enlarged view of larva in "my" common paper wasp nest.

wasp.JPG (236472 bytes)

GROUSE MEETING--The Indianapolis Chapter of the Ruffed Grouse Society is staging a public meeting July 30 at Gander Mountain Lodge (1049 North Emerson Avenue, Greenwood). The 6:30 p.m. meeting’s purpose is to recruit members and non-members to work on improving the ruffed grouse habitat in Indiana. If you improve grouse habitat you help many forms of wildlife. For more information, call Tom Beauchamp, 317-313-0342, or reach him by e-mail: beauchampfamily@sbcglobal.net. Such a wonderful game bird (good on the platter, too) deserves a better lot than we have given it. 

All columns, essays, and photos are copyrighted by Bill Scifres and may not be reproduced in any form without prior permission from the author.  For reproduction permission and media usage fees, contact: Bill Scifres, 6420 East 116th Street, Fishers, IN 46038, E-mail: billscifres@aol.com

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