Sting theory

March 17, 2011

As a zoologist (and a pedant), I was intrigued by the wasps' nest image in "Odds and Quads" (10 March). First, the nest is upside down. Second, the picture has no indication of scale - it is impossible to judge whether the nest is the size of a truck or a thimble. Either way, it may be large by UK standards, but on the global scale it is trivial.

Two of our wasp species - including Vespula vulgaris, which used to inhabit the wasps' nest pictured - were deliberately introduced into New Zealand. There, because of the mild winters, colonies continue to grow all year round, with some reaching more than 100,000 individuals and over 1m in diameter.

Perhaps the image itself is meaningless: what really counts is its position on the page next to the story "Willetts offers fuzzy logic as visa changes draw fire". Will the minister get stung?

Tim Birkhead, Department of animal and plant sciences, University of Sheffield

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