You may well have witnessed or seen scratches on your decking where wasps have been. You may wonder why they appear so interested in wood.
Most species of social wasp are attracted to wood as they use it to make their nests. Wasps will use their mandibles to scrape wood and then use their saliva to turn it into a pulp. It is this pulp that they use to make their paper nests.
let’s take a closer look at how wasps go about making these nests and how long it takes.
How do wasps make their paper nests?
It is the queen wasp who will begin to build the wasp nest when she comes out of hibernation at the start of spring. She will likely choose a site near to wood as it will be an essential resource required for the production of the nest.
Using her mandibles (claw-like) she will scrape wood from dead trees, decking, and fences. The softer the wood the better for the wasp. They can also use cardboard. If you look closely you may see the small scratches made by wasps on fence posts and on decking.
Once scraped the queen uses saliva to chew the wood into a pulp that she can gradually use to make the nest. Once dried the hexagonal nest structure becomes rigid.
This hexagonal shape is recognizably the same shape as honeycombs made by bees, but without the honey. It a very efficient use of space and a strong structure.
How long does it take for wasps to build the nest?
The process of the building the nest is an ongoing process that will last for several months through spring and summer. During the winter all the other wasps would have died with only the queen surviving. She will begin to build the nest alone, so at first, the nest will be small.
The queen will have been inseminated prior to going into hibernation so she needs the nest for the first batch of young wasps to develop through the larvae stage into fully developed wasps.
Once these first wasps develop they will begin to assist in building the nest, and so contributing to ever-expanding the size of the colony throughout the spring and summer.
The work to expand the nest will continue slowing until the fall when the last larvae will develop. So, wasps will continue looking for wood all through spring and summer.
Wasp nests are not designed to last throughout the winter so the work needs to begin anew each year.
Do all wasp species make paper nests?
Most social species of wasp will use paper for their nests. Solitary wasps, however, that is wasps that do not live in colonies, are much more diverse in their choice of nest. Some solitary wasps will burrow holes in the ground, while others such as mud daubers will construct nests out of mud.
Paper wasps, which get their name from the paper nests they make, are common in the United States and tend to build small umbrella-shaped nests. Often they will build them in a tree or in the eave of a roof.