Egg Drop Contest Entry

July 28, 2008 at 12:10 pm 16 comments

In the comment feed of my The Great Craft Explosion post, we had some discussion about a metal chickadee that was on my deck. It’s a really cool outdoor candle holder that Sean’s mother got me a few years back. Unfortunately, I wasn’t the only one that thought it was cool. A bunch of yellow jackets claimed squatter’s rights and built themselves a nest inside.

So…. yesterday, noting that a nest of yellow jackets in the middle of the deck probably won’t be appealing to prospective house buyers, I decided I needed to get rid of them. But the question was how?!?! In the past few weeks, I had noted that the yellow jackets had very little interest in stinging me. But still, it wasn’t something I wanted to tempt them with.

In January, Penn and I played a game of soccer using gravity as an opponent. And as frequently as I drop things, gravity is not always my friend. But with my yellow jacket situation, I joined forces with gravity and it became my ally. I slowly picked up the metal chickadee and then (not so slowly) threw it off the deck.

Boy, were those buggers surprised!
Nest after gravity

I wasn’t entirely certain about my next step, but I did know it involved a can of Raid. I waited for the surprised swarm to calm down, then I walked down the stairs to inspect the aftermath of my Shock and Awe Campaign. What I saw absolutely amazed me.

Even though I threw that thing off the roof of my house, it had impacted the ground and rolled across the grass, the nest was 100% in tact. AND the yellow jackets were back to work, tending to their eggs like nothing had happened.

The candle holder also survived the fall, but I expected that. It’s very solidly built. With the nest, I was dumbfounded. I expected total devastation. Yellow jackets, it seems, are marvelous engineers. I was so impressed with the handiwork of the yellow jackets and their work ethic, I aborted the Raid phase of my operation. I decided that I would let the yellow jackets live.

But obviously, the middle of my side yard isn’t the best place either. So I picked up their nest (my trust level in the yellow jackets grows with every encounter) and placed it in the woods in my backyard. And despite what happened the last time I picked up their nest, the yellow jackets stayed hard at work and did not sting me. They rule.

New home for the yellow jackets

I can not state enough how amazed I am that their nest survived. Have you ever seen those Egg Drop competitions? The Blacksburg library does it annually for children, but I’ve also heard of college Physics and Engineering Departments doing it too. Basically, you aim to build a contraption that will protect an egg from shattering upon a fall. People come with crazy designs:

Egg Drop Entries at Colorado University (Photos by AMagill)

Egg Drop Contests always sounded interesting, but I never really knew where to begin in regards to a design. Now, I have inspiration…from nature. 🙂

Vicky’s Egg Drop Entry

Entry filed under: yellow jackets.

Reaching Wallpaper links for 2008-07-29

16 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Clint  |  July 28, 2008 at 12:37 pm

    It makes sense that millions of years of evolution got them to end up with a very sensible hexagon shape for their nests.

    As for the egg drops. I don’t want to talk about it. Mine was the only one in class that broke.

  • 2. geekhiker  |  July 28, 2008 at 2:27 pm

    Okay, here’s a weird bit of knowledge that the post trigged for me: it made me think of Devil’s Postpile up in the Sierras. Up there, when the volcanic lava cooled, it fractured into the most efficient structural way in nature: hexagonal shapes. If you climb up on top of the postpile, you’ll find a large area of hexagons spread out, like a tiled patio. I love the way nature repeats in the most unexpected places.

    Of course, now I’m also wondering if that egg drop shape would work…

  • 3. chriggy  |  July 28, 2008 at 3:41 pm

    You got lucky. Yellow jackets can be quite nasty and aggressive. My last encounter was with a yellow jacket in our yard. Yes, you heard correctly, a yellow jacket, not yellow jackets. They had an underground nest and one yellow jacket decided it was not pleased with our presence. It started stinging. Multiple times. And it chased us.

    There were five of us there at the time. You should have seen us frantically running around the yard. It turned into a game of hot potato, only with a yellow jacket. Basically, if it’s chasing you, try to run real close by someone else and hope it starts chasing them instead. I was good 🙂 I did not get stung. Three people did. Multiple times.

    Raid was promptly used the next day.

  • 4. Vicky  |  July 28, 2008 at 3:45 pm

    @chriggy- That was the main reason I just didn’t spray them outright on the deck. My brother reported that they are fast and vicious and he thought as soon as I starting spraying, I would get attacked. So that’s why I put gravity to work. I thought that would take a lot of them out of the mix.

    I am glad they were so nice to me though.

  • 5. Lee  |  July 28, 2008 at 3:46 pm

    I had to do the “drop” in high school off of a 4-story building to the concrete sidewalk below. We were all given a finitie amount of materials (the only ones I remember is a regular paper-towell roll…some scotch tape and plastic bendy-straws??) needless to say few survived (my group’s did, but I couldn’t tell you the design to save my life…that was like 12 years ago!).

  • 6. chriggy  |  July 28, 2008 at 4:26 pm

    The trick to spraying is to do it at night when they’re sleeping. Sneak up, spray, run like hell!

    Umm, well, ok, I’m not too good with insects, so I made Shannon do it. 🙂

  • 7. Ryan Somma  |  July 28, 2008 at 5:16 pm

    My neighbor in Norfolk was being nice and weed-eating my yard for me. He hit a huge nest and they swarmed. After running around for awhile, he finally had to run inside and jump in the shower to get the yellow jackets out of his hair. Then he took a bunch of aspirin, got really really drunk to sleep it off.

    That afternoon, the yellow jackets were still attacking the weed eater. I sloshed a glass of gasoline on the nest and torched it. Had a similar experience landscaping when I ran over a nest and the mower sucked all the yellow jackets out to swarm over me. Torching that nest was very satisfying.

    According to an entomologist I read once, the hexacomb is structurally sound, but it’s also an extremely efficient way to store things like larvae and honey.

  • 8. Aaron  |  July 28, 2008 at 5:24 pm

    I prefer the gasoline and fire approach. Oh, so satisfying!

    I’m sorry, did you say something about eggs in this post?

  • 9. Vicky  |  July 28, 2008 at 5:24 pm

    Huh. Maybe Walmart should change their milk containers to be more hexacomb-like.

  • 10. Clint  |  July 28, 2008 at 6:25 pm

    That would be more expensive than cubes. At the edge of any vehicle carrying it (and all vehicles tend to be rectangular) you’d have unused spaces between the edges of the hexagons..

  • 11. Anne  |  July 29, 2008 at 12:30 am

    Maybe those weren’t yellow jackets. Maybe they were some other type of bee.

  • 12. passionphish  |  July 29, 2008 at 1:29 pm

    I think your design is a great one for an egg drop contest! Ironically, or rather wonderfully, humans have been learning from their animal cousins for quite some time.
    When building composite structure for aircraft. We use a material called Nomex. It is basically paper and some kind of epoxy that is shaped in the form of a honeycomb! That is used to fill and strengthen parts. Once the cloth material around the Nomex hardens. The part is extremely durable to all kinds of shock and torsion loads.
    But once it does fail. It is catastrophic. But when small enough, it is still repairable.
    Ain’t nature grand?

    I hope everything is going well for you!! We miss viriginia!!!

  • 13. Anne  |  July 29, 2008 at 4:32 pm

    They sure look like yellow jackets in the orphan picture on flikr.

  • 14. Angel  |  August 1, 2008 at 10:58 am

    I second geekhiker. Devil’s Tower of Close Encounters fame has the same kind of volcanic construction.

    We didn’t have an egg drop contest when I was in middle/high school but we DID make a bridge. We had to engineer it to take a heavy load. My “team” used a TON of glue and ours did fairly well even though our design was flawed.

    The next year we made “CO2 cars”. We were given a block of wood into which a CO2 cartridge would be inserted. We had to engineer the car to be as fast as possible while not breaking on impact or something. Mine was a BRICK but I think to this day they still use it as an example of how to build something that WON’T break. Plus my paint job was REALLY pretty.

  • 15. Shortest Hike Ever « TGAW  |  August 14, 2008 at 12:08 am

    […] August 14, 2008 So it turns out getting a divorce could easily be a full time job. Putting a house on the market could be a full time job as well. Add that to a real full time job and you are one busy bee (or should I say yellow jacket?). […]

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    […] On the dead fauna front, there was a lot of old coral washed up on the White Bay Beach. It so intricate and marvelously constructed. Coral may put Yellow Jackets to shame. […]


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