Giant wasps’ nest found in Canary Islands

April 11, 2013 • 6:12 am

by Matthew Cobb

It is of course the nest that is giant, not the wasps. But it’s still pretty impressive. In San Sebastián de La Gomera, the port capital of Tenerife in the Canary Islands, police broke into an empty house following complaints from neighbours. Inside they found a wasps’ nest that was allegedly over 7 metres long (it doesn’t actually look that big, but maybe it does back into the room and the photographer – understandably – didn’t want to get that close):





According to this source:

Experts have examined the nest … and say the common type of wasp found in gardens would never normally build a nest of this size. They believe it must be an invasive species of wasp which had migrated from Africa.The Canary Islands are less than 100 kilometres from Morocco by water.

Ah, those experts. Looks like a large paper wasp to me. But I know only about maggots (I think that’s the way Jerry would like that sentence, though it reads oddly, and would be better as the ungrammatical ‘I only know about maggots’)

Now what are the police going to do? My guess is it will be bad news for the wasps.

Photos: EFE. From

44 thoughts on “Giant wasps’ nest found in Canary Islands

  1. It is of course the nest that is giant, not the wasps.

    So disappointed to read that, though the nest is very impressive.

    1. Since grammar enters into the topic in a roundabout way:

      The headline would need to read:

      Giant wasp’s nest found in Canary Islands

      for it to be the wasp that is giant.

      I’m actually glad it isn’t the wasp that is giant. Scary…

        1. Is this nest still around? Id love to put this nest in my museum.
          You can check my site out to see what i have,the biggest i have so far is a 6 foot tall yellow jackets nest
          please contact me
          thank you.

  2. It’s a shame that this post, for me, was overshadowed by the “I only know” vs “I know only” debacle at the end. That, plus the headline, could make for an article on Language Log.

    1. Please forgive me, but sometimes I just can’t tell. This is intended as humor, correct?

      Well anyway, it did make me laugh.

        1. “grammatically wrong with either” should be “grammatically wrong with it either”

          I don’t thinks so. The writer is not intending “either” to be synonymous with “as well.” But instead saying that there is nothing wrong with both “only knows” and “knows only,” hence using “either” when instead he/she could have considered using “both” for better clarity.

      1. The “only know” construction is potentially ambiguous. Not so much in this case, perhaps, but try this one:

        “He said only that he loved her”. (Nothing more needed to be said.)

        “He only said that he loved her.” (He didn’t mean it.)

        Very different meanings there. So one should be careful (especially in written language) not to use the “only said” construction when what one means is “said only”.

        But as always, if there’s little risk of ambiguity, go with what sounds best to you. (In Matthew’s case, I probably would have chosen “All I know about is maggots.”)

        1. I support your line of thinking. As you say, the “only said” construction can be ambiguous. However, the “only know” construction is usually not (in particular, your examples don’t apply), and also seems to be more idiomatic than “know only”, and hence should not be declared ungrammatical on a whim.

  3. That is amazing and a bit. . . alarming.

    When I was a young boy, 6 or 7, I got into a wasp nest while playing around near some railroad tracks. The only clear memory I have of the incident is running down the tracks as fast as I could, terrified, as the wasps harassed me. I ended up in the hospital with dozens, over 50 if I recall the story correctly, of wasp stings, mostly on my back. Surprisingly Ive never been anxious about bees, wasps or hornets as a teen or adult, and the actual sting is no more than a momentary, minor irritation.

    But then, I’ve never been stung by that Giant Japanese Hornet. That might smart a bit.

    1. Interesting. I’m glad you’re quite well from the attack, but I’d have thought that that many wasp stings might be lethal.

      Maybe I’m just a wuss, but I think bee stings hurt a lot.

      1. Apparently responses can vary widely. At one extreme, some people can die from a single sting, but that is due to an allergic reaction not damages caused directly by the venom. People have survived many more stings than I did. I don’t remember the event very well, but it was not a major medical ordeal. I’ve had a few of those and the wasp incident is barely remembered in the family lore compared to those.

  4. Hmmmm… (not intended as a wasp sound)
    OED online says-
    “Placed away from the word or phrase which it limits, esp. preceding the main verb.
    Frequent in speech, where stress and pauses eliminate ambiguity; often avoided by careful writers.”
    But –
    It was good enough for Marvell
    “I onely write this word to let you know”
    ” When Beasts were only slain for Sacrifice.”
    Oliver Cromwell
    “Unto the whiche God I have onlye commyttyd my sowlle.”
    & Caxton
    “Luke is only with me.”

    Amazing wasp world!

  5. “Now what are the police going to do? My guess is it will be bad news for the wasps.”

    Perhaps they will want back rent!

  6.  San Sebastián de La Gomera, is not the port capital of Tenerife in the Canary Islands.  La Gomera is an island of the Canary Islands.  The capital of Tenerife is Santa Cruz. 

    The islands are:-

        Gran Canaria, (capital: Las Palmas de Gran Canaria)

        Tenerife (capital: Santa Cruz de Tenerife)

        Lanzarote (capital: Arrecife)

        La Palma (capital: Santa Cruz de La Palma)

        La Gomera (capital: San Sebastián de La Gomera)

        El Hierro (capital: Valverde)

        Fuerteventura (capital: Puerto del Rosario).


  7. I will bet that it is Vespula germanica, which can have large, perennial nests in climates where the workers do not die off at the end of the season due to frost. Interior nests can be quite large.

  8. “Looks like a large paper wasp to me.”

    Hm, I’m no wasp expert but the largest paper wasp nest I’ve seen is about 10 cm long.

    And I want to keep it that way. Wasps terrify me.

    1. My high school biology teacher had a paper wasp nest (with no wasps in it, of course) in his room that was roughly the size of a basketball.

      1. When I was the museum guy in Mount Isa, a local brought one in that was at least two basketballs’ worth. Can’t remember the details, but probably from inside a tin shed with a rotting wood fame, it’d be just the place. It was pretty dusty and knocked out of shape, but impressive.

  9. When I was a kid I stuck my face too close to a paper wasp nest (watching larvae) . Got hit with 35 stings (17 on my face) . Learned something.

  10. The first photo looks stretched horizontally. Not sure why someone did that, it’s pretty impressive already.

  11. But I know only about maggots (I think that’s the way Jerry would like that sentence…)

    I expect he’d like it even better with a period.

    May I suggest “My specialty is maggots” or something along those lines, since I’m sure there are many things you know about in addition to maggots.

  12. Yikes. I thought the wasps like that (hornets) were annual. I am doubting that would be true here for this species. A nest that size must surely have multiple queens.

  13. 1. How cool is that?!

    2. Surprised it wasn’t “African Killer Wasps” that was suggested… *rolls eyes*

    3. If this website is going to become a nest of grammatical nitpickers it’s going to lose a lot of its appeal for me. (Even though I tend to be one myself.)

  14. Hmm, I hate wasps.

    We had a wasps nest establish itself in a pencil conifer right by our back door. They cut an entry hole about 2″ across in the vegetation.

    I bought (from the supermarket) the cheapest can of fly spray and the cheapest can of ‘crawling insect killer’ I could find, observed the nest through the adjacent window till there weren’t too many wasps hovering around, darted out the door and emptied a quarter can of fly spray into the hole and a quarter can of crawling insect killer around the edges, and nip smartly back indoors again. Wait for a while and repeat.

    Followed up a few days later. It worked.

    The following year the wasps tried again with the tree. Same result.

    One day they’ll evolve and make a nest out of reach and I’ll be snookered.

  15. Reblogged this on Oily Mud on a Piece of Cloth and commented:
    Isn’t the form of this nest, shared over at Jerry Coyne’s “Why Evolution Is True” quite beautiful? Strange undulations in whatever fibre the wasps secrete and build from, and the way the wasps themselves pepper it. We all know there’s a lot of beauty in nature, but sometimes it creeps in in the strangest places.

  16. Shouting “I’ve got it”, “I’ve got it”, My apprentice produced from a roof void, not the ball of fire foam and cable end that he thought he had, but a football sized wasps nest. He promptly dropped it. Coward that I am, I equally promptly slammed the door to the cupboard and ran away.

    He sure got it!!!.

  17. Mark could be right — given the mild climate of the Canary Islands and if there was an ample food supply, the nest in the video may have been there for many years…

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