Sunday, July 11, 2010

Wasp Nest

23/05/10 - I noticed with some trepidation that this Common Wasp Vespula vulgaris had started to build its nest in my garden shed. However, after a few days it seemed to seal the entrance hole up and then disappear without trace as shown below.

Wasp nests are initiated by a fertile female (queen wasp) during late spring. The initial nest is about the size of a golf ball (the size above) and contains a small piece of comb in which the queen rears her first brood of worker wasps. The workers are sterile females. Their role is to gather food that they feed to the larvae, to gather chewed up wood fibres for constructing the combs and enlarging the nest (melon sized), and defending the nest against intruders. Male wasps and next year’s queens develop in late summer.

Social wasps are important predators of insect pests such as caterpillars and other small soft-bodied insects. The insects are fed to the wasp larvae, and in return the larvae exude a sweet substance to feed the workers. In autumn, when the queen stops producing eggs, the workers no longer have their food, forcing them to search for replacement sources of sugar. Normally, this would be found on rotting fruit, but the abundance of sweet human foods such as jam encourages them to invite themselves to our tables. This explains why wasps are generally only a nuisance in the autumn.

The photo above was taken on 09/06/10 and I have not seen any more activity in the shed. Perhaps the workers hatched out and gave the nest up as a bad job as I had sealed up some rather large gaps between the floor and the sides of the shed. Alternatively, maybe the workers just did not hatch out for some reason. In a way I'm rather sad that I was unable to observe the building of a complete nest, but glad that my son will still come to visit me. He has a phobia about wasps like so many other people.