Paper wasps are considered beneficial because they assist in pollination by feeding on nectar, and they control pest insect populations by feeding them to their larvae. However, despite their ecological benefits, paper wasp nests should not be permitted to develop in or near the home. Stings from paper wasps are extremely painful and may produce serious reactions to people who are allergic to the venom. These insects are called paper wasps due to the construction of their nests. Paper wasp nests are made from plant material combined with saliva and appear to be made from paper. Their nests include numerous compartments within which wasps lay their eggs and rear their young. The nests typically do not have an outer shell with the cells of the nest visible. In fact, it somewhat resembles an umbrella and is the reason they may be called umbrella wasps. These nests are frequently found in sheltered areas, such as door frames, window sill and the eaves of houses. Paper wasps feed on nectar and pollen, although they also hunt for insects such as caterpillars with which to nourish their colonies’ larvae. As larvae develop into adults, they assist in expanding the nest and nurturing future generations.
Wasps are expert paper makers, capable of turning raw wood into sturdy paper homes. A wasp queen uses her mandibles to scrape bits of wood fiber from fences, logs, or even cardboard. She then breaks the wood fibers down in her mouth, using saliva and water to weaken them. The wasp flies to her chosen nest site with a mouth full of soft paper pulp.
Construction begins with finding a suitable support for the nest – a window shutter, a tree branch, or a root in the case of subterranean nests. Once she has settled on a suitable location, the queen adds her pulp to the surface of the support. As the wet cellulose fibers dry, they become a strong paper buttress from which she will suspend her nest.
The nest itself is comprised of hexagonal cells in which the young will develop. The queen protects the brood cells by building a paper envelope, or cover, around them. The nest expands as the colony grows in number, with new generations of workers constructing new cells as needed.
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