Wasp nests (Photos and text)


Wasp nests are made from chewed wood or mud. The queen wasp starts building a nest from scratch in the spring after she emerges from winter hibernation. In the spring the queen wasp starts to gather old, untreated, dead wood which she chews into a paste. With this, she starts building a nest. With some species as the nest progresses and worker wasps, hatch and they take over the collection of the nest building materials. They take it back to the nest where the young wasp larvae chew this wood into a paste which the adult workers then use to continue expanding the nest. The chewed paste which is used to construct the nest contains a certain amount of wax which helps with waterproofing. Most species build a new nest each year as wasp colonies only last a season. Only the queens survive to establish future colonies. Caution should be taken when dealing with any type of wasp nest. 

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Common wasp: Vespula vulgaris build their nests in almost any location, favourite places are lofts, sheds, old rabbit and animal burrows in the ground, inside cavity walls, chimneys and just about anywhere that is dry and undisturbed. The nest has open cells and a petiole attaching the nest to the substrate. The wasps produce a chemical which repels ants and secrete it around the base of this petiole in order to avoid ant predation. A solitary female queen starts the nest, building 20–30 cells before initial egg-laying. This phase begins in spring, depending on climatic conditions. She fashions a petiole and produces a single cell at the end of it. Six further cells are then added around this to produce the characteristic hexagonal shape of the nest cells. The spherical nest is built up from layers of cells. A finished nest may contain 5,000–10,000 individuals. Colonies usually last only one year, all but the queen dying at the onset of winter. However, in a milder climate of some parts of New Zealand, a few of the colonies survive the winter, although this is much more common with the German wasp. 

1-Vespula vulgaris nest Richerman.jpg 

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German wasp: Vespula germanica mainly build their nests below ground. A small portion is found above ground in artificial structures and in hedges and trees.  A hanging nest resembles a large grey football shaped object. The nests are made from chewed plant fibres, mixed with saliva. a significant number of nests in. In New Zealand, many nests survive the winter. This is why Vespula germanica nests can reach a substantial size here in New Zealand.

A German wasp nest removed from the ground.
Centre of Vespula germanica nest German wasp.JPG 

A German wasp nest built above ground.
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Mason wasp: (Mason bee) Pison spinolae is a solitary wasp 10 to 16mm in length. It is native to New Zealand and Australia. In summer the female mason wasp builds a nest of cells out of mud or clay which she carries to the nest in her jaws. The mainly burrow tunnels into banks, but they also use ready-made holes such as keyholes or any suitable crevice. Clusters of cells can even be found in curtains, hanging coats and beneath tarpaulins. During construction she makes a high pitched buzzing noise. The female makes the cell and then collects orbweb spiders, which she stings to paralyse them. The orb spider is a fat, common species of triangular spiders that makes those beautifully shaped webs you see on misty mornings. Once the cell is packed with spiders, she lays an egg and she seals it shut. The egg hatches and the larva feed on the still living paralysed spiders. The larvae pupate in a brown cocoon. Each cell about 20 mm long and a line of cells may be many centimetres long. Adults eat nectar.

A nest that was exposed behind a plank.

An entrance to a nest in a bank.
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The nest entrance sealed.
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Mud Wasp: Podalonia tydei ssp. Suspiciosa is a member of Thread-waisted wasps in the Family Sphecidae. The queen constructs its nest from mud or clay. Mud wasps nest in the ground as well as in attics, on walls, structures, and under bridges. Mud wasps are solitary wasps and vary from 12 to 22 mm in length with relatively small nests. Prior to winter they abandon the mud nests and overwinter until springtime. 

An unknown species of thread-waisted wasp building mud nest that is near completion.
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Paper wasp: (Asian) Polistes chinensis have small honeycomb nests which are made out of wood chewed and moulded by the wasps. They collect the fibre by scraping wooden structures with their mandibles (mouthparts). The wasp then chews the wood and mixes it with saliva. This makes the wood fibre extremely soft and moist. After a period of chewing, the wasp adds the paste to the nest structure and spreads it out with her mandibles and legs. After it thoroughly dries, a type of tough, durable paper is formed. The small, usually less than 20 cm in diameter cells are in a single layer with no outer covering cells where the roof is covered with a shiny secretion that acts as water-proofing... The cells are left open to enable the queen to feed her young. Their nests (combs) hang from small shrubs and trees, fences and walls.and often under the eaves of houses.

The open cells with one egg per cell. The cells openings normally face downwards.
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Nest with stalk attached to a branch
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Paper wasp: (Tasmanian) Polistes humilis built a 10cm to 12cm diameter nest with multiple hexagonal cells out of a grey papery material made from chewed up wood fibre and saliva. The open, cone-shaped nest hangs suspended by a single attachment point with a short stalk. This is attached high to a tree or on man-made structures. An egg is laid in each cell which hatches into a grub-like larva which is fed by the adults. After a period the cells are sealed and the larvae are left to pupate inside. Most of the adult paper wasps die in winter, with a few hibernating to start new colonies. Paper wasps attack when aggravated and have a painful sting; they can sting multiple times and do not lose there stinger like a honey bee. 

A Polistes humilis nest. They are usually built them high in a tree. This nest is in a coastal tree 'Karo' (Pittosporum crassifolium).
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Small Yellowjacket wasps in subfamily Vespinae. Depending on the species wasp their nests can vary in size, construction material and appearance, but are typically greyish or straw-coloured in appearance.  The queen collects wooden fibres with her mandibles. She then chews the wood and mixes it with saliva. This makes the wood fibre extremely soft and moist. After a period of chewing, the wasp adds the paste to the nest structure and spreads it out with her mandibles and legs. The paste dries forming a type of tough, durable, waterproof paper. Nests are usually small.
1-Wasp nest Subfamily Vespinae.jpg

Thanks to Wikipedia for text and information: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/