How long does it take for wasps to build their nests

01:00 Mon 13th Aug 2001 |

All summer!A wasp colony starts building its nest in the spring, and this gradually gets bigger as the colony grows. In autumn the nest reaches peak size and is then abandoned. Only a fertilised queen survives the winter, usually hibernating in roofs, basements or old trees. Next year the whole process starts over again; nests are not reused.

Q. How many wasps live in the nests

A. Depending on the species, a colony of over 5,000 wasps can live in the nests.

Q. What are wasp nests made of

A. Paper, manufactured form wood pulp. The wasp scrapes wood fibre from worn and weathered trees, fences, telegraph poles, and even cardboard boxes, using its mouth. It chews the fibre, mixing it with its saliva, making it moist and malleable.

After a good chew the paste is ready to be added to the nest, where the wasp spreads it around using its mouth and legs. It dries to form a tough paper structure.

Q. Where do wasps build their nests

A. In all kinds of places: in trees, on the ground and in attics, where they can become a nuisance.

Q. What is the largest known wasp nest

A. The size of a wasp's nest varies according to species but they're usually no smaller than a human hand. The largest wasp nest on record measured 12 feet long with a diameter of five feet nine inches! It was discovered on a farm at New Zealand in 1963.

Q. If wasps are active from spring to autumn why are they only a nuisance in late summer

A. During late summer and early autumn, as the wasp nest becomes as big as it will get and the wasps stop adding to it, they increase their foraging activity, which is when we're most likely to bump into each other. It's then that wasps, which are at their most numerous and aggressive, are most likely to sting.

The fact that we notice this more in late summer is possibly because we spend more time outdoors during this time compared with cooler early autumn days.

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by Lisa Cardy

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