An earlier post describes the activities around a colony of Paper Wasps (Polistes sagittarius). The removal of colony by the owner of the house allowed me the opportunity to collect the three empty nests of open combs for examination.
The image above shows two active nests nearer to the entrance of the drainage opening before the colony was destroyed. It appears that the back of the nests is directed towards the outside. The image of the first nest (below) shows the four empty cells connected by a narrow stalk that attached it to the roof of the drainage opening. The fact that the cells are empty indicates that the pupae had most probably eclosed.
The view of the active colony shown below shows a wasp hanging on to the second nest. Unfortunately this nest was damaged when trying to salvage it.
The third nest found deeper inside before the colony was destroyed (below), can be seen with three wasps hanging on to it.
The front and back views of the salvaged third nest are shown below. The nest here is larger, with many more empty cells than the first nest (as well as the second, not shown here), indicating that this is the oldest nest of the three.
A Paper Wasp nest starts with a founding female. She first constructs the short stalk coated with a chemical that repels ants. She then attaches a single hexagonal cell made of plant fibres, to subsequently add more cells to form a comb. An egg is lodged in each cell. The larvae are fed with chewed-up caterpillar until they are ready to pupate, when the cells are sealed with the silken cocoon caps. The seal of each cell is broken with the appearance of the adult wasp, initially sterile female workers. These workers then assist in the care and maintenance of the young. With more workers, the founding female’s function is to lay more eggs.
Towards the end of the cycle, fertile males and females appear. They leave the dying colony to found new colonies.
17th July 2016