Friday, May 2, 2008

Animal Architects - Wasps

I'm sorry to say I've had "dealings" with our next architect. As interesting and complex as their nests are, I have no love of wasps. They are aggressive and their stings Hurt!

Paper wasps make their own version of paper to build their nests. Wasps collect wood fibers with their mandibles. They look for sources with exposed wood, such as fences, telephone poles, buildings or damaged trees. They will even visit trash sites or dumps and scrap the fibers from cardboard or paper bags. They mix the pulp with their own saliva, and sometimes with their own poo, to get the fibers soft and moist. Once it is in a paste-like form, the wasp spreads it along an exposed leading edge of the nest, using both mandibles and legs. Once the substance dries, it becomes a strong and durable paper.

You may think making your home out of paper is unwise, but it works beautifully for the wasp. The pockets of air trapped between paper layers keep the nest temperature regulated. Need to cool the nest off? Peel off some paper. Getting too cold? Spread more layers on.

Unfortunately, paper wasps tend to build their homes near or on our homes. Wasps eat other insects and spiders, which is good, but they are also aggressive and highly territorial, which is bad. If you need to remove wasps that have decided to become your neighbors, do so at dusk. They are less active then. Even so, make sure you have a clear route of escape as they will not be happy.

Wasp photo by Susan Ellis.
Nest photo by Mensatic.

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