Sorry for the delay in writing since my last post, but la vie guyanaise took a strange turn over the past week. Some small children stole half our equipment from a locked building at the research institute, which to be honest wasn't especially helpful. It's been a manic cavalcade of police interviews and missions to Cayenne to restore our equipment lists, surreally involving five gendarmes combing the house with forensic brushes for fingerprints. There were a few furrowed brows about how to get our radio-tags working without one crucial element, but fortunately I encountered a very slimy man in downtown Cayenne who has sold me an improbable-looking plastic device. Miraculously, it works! So many thanks to the slimy man.
We're busy attaching the radio-tags to the wasps, so some photos of the lovely wasps themselves are coming in the next post. For now, a few snapshots of life in beautiful French Guiana. Even with child thieves making off with your equipment, it's a wonderful place...
"Who on earth are they?" comes a heavily-accented voice from somewhere unseen. There's a pause. "Aha," it says a few moments later, in a knowing tone. "Les chasseurs des guêpes!" The wasp-hunters.
We seem to be becoming something of a curiosity. Every morning, after climbing out of the mosquito nets, driving north in style for an hour on French Guiana's only north-south road - flanked by the silhouettes of canopy trees and rainforest mists -, we start the day's work, which is basically the job of explaining to a gentle but relentless stream of bemused onlookers that we really have travelled over four-thousand miles to study their "mouches". I wish I had photos of all the bewildered expressions we've seen so far.
The little town we're working in has (apparently) been quietly getting on with life in the French Amazon since the 1620s. It's a rustic idyll of colourfully painted houses, many of which are made of wood and clay, on a wide meander surrounded on three sides by dense forest. There's a great community spirit. The town council have been fantastic, and it's a beautiful, tidy, and incredibly colourful town with a rich history. So, thank you Sinnamary!
We've found eleven houses across the town which host our fantastic species - and some of them (currently uninhabited) host such a profusion of colonies that's it's almost impossible to move through doorways given the risk that there's a nest on the hinges. Some of these abandoned houses, slowly but relentlessly being reclaimed by the tropics, have something strangely picturesque about them: there's one bedroom draped with hundreds of vines, broad-leaves springing up through the empty bedframe, and various wasp colonies clinging stubbornly but stylishly to the wall.
I'm currently doing a test of a method I plan to use in the actual experiment, which starts soon. Bring on the radio-tags!
Au revoir for now!
Today, whilst out searching for suitable field sites, I was unceremoniously attacked by Polybia rejecta - a different wasp species to the targets (victims? leading ladies? heroines?) of my PhD. That takes my PhD sting count from nought to six in one fell swoop. Ouch.
We're here and ready to start wasp-chasing! Drove to the field sites for the first time today - it's an hour's drive through the forest to a little village that been there since the 1600s, full of colonial houses painted in bright colours. And, of course, the odd wasp ;)
Blog belonging to Patrick, studying the weird and wonderful mysteries of neotropical wasps in French Guiana and Panama
Adventures of a
of a young ZOOLOGIST