Welcome!

To the South Texas Chapter Master Naturalist Website!
The Texas Master Naturalist program develops local teams of “master volunteers” to provide educational and outreach services aimed at the better management of natural resources and natural areas within their communities.  The Texas Master Naturalist program is a partnership between the Agrilife Extension and Texas Parks & Wildlife.

On this site you will find information on volunteering, advanced training, where we meet, our calendar of events, how to become a Texas Master Naturalist, and more!

 

Check out the Texas Master Naturalist 20th Anniversary Project!  

The Texas Master Naturalist Program will be celebrating its 20th Anniversary in 2018.  As we approach that milestone, we will be collecting stories and the history of our program through a number of different media types.  We will use this page to share information requests with our TMN Chapters. More information and resources will be posted as they are developed.

 

Critter of the Month!  Mexican Honey Wasp

Mexican Honey Wasp. Photo Credit: Texas Apiary Inspection Service, Texas A&M Agrilife Research

At most of the sites we go to for training or volunteer hours, we see large gray bundles of bee-like structures with bee-like critters busy working the nest.  However, these are not bees, they are Mexican Honey Wasps, Brachygastra mellifica.  They are the only genus of wasp that makes and eats honey as larvae.  They are relatively docile wasps smaller than a honey bee(about the size of a house fly).  They are black and lack the hairy body covering exhibited by bees.  While docile, they can provide a hurtful sting if provoked or inadvertently trapped in a shirt collar or sleeve.  There nests are up to a meter in length.  A new colony can create a football size nest in 30 to 40 days.  This nest can be inhabited for several years.  In areas of Mexico and Central America, nests of one species is harvested for its honey.  The bottom of the nest is cut out, honey extracted and the wasps rebuild the lost section.

It is a beneficial insect.  Not only is it a nectar gatherer and pollinator, but it is also a predator on the Asian Citrus psyllid (Citrus Decline Disease).  Animals that are predators on the wasps and their nest include woodpeckers, Robber flies, mammals that consume brood and honeycombs.  The nests are usually found in mid-canopy level of shrubs and trees from one to nine meters high.  A large nest may contain 20,000 wasps.  They are the only wasp species whose larvae feed exclusively on honey-pollen liquid.  Liquid food appears to be passed from foragers to nest mates.   Colonies contain numerous fertile females (polygynous queens).  Entry to the hive is through a hole in the bottom of the hive.  The species occurs from central Texas to America in all habitats but the driest habitats.

While most honey is good, caution should be taken if the colony is in areas where there are toxic plants such as Duranta.

 

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