Monday, April 17, 2023

Construction site

The onset of spring sees a lot of home-building activity across the animal kingdom, and wasps are no exception to this. Within the huge number of insects that are classified as 'wasps', there are vastly differing nest-building behaviours. A large majority of wasp species are solitary, and their dwellings are no more than a hole-in-the-wall (or ground). It is the eusocial wasp species - almost all of them belonging to the Vespidae family - which build elaborate nests with an egg-laying queen and many worker-drones. 

The main raw material for a wasp's nest is some kind of plant fibre, which it chews up to produce a layer of material around an empty space. Further layers are added (there is a fascinating paper on the complexity of nest building, extract here) and sometimes, the honeycomb pattern emerges. More often, the patterns are different, though. It is common enough to see huge honeycombs in the city, but rare to see a large wasp nest. 

These wasps, most likely of the Polistinae sub-family, make rather compact nests. These are usually seen under plant leaves, or on building crevices; I couldn't recall seeing wasp nests on telephone / TV cables. But then, come to think of it, the ones on plants were usually grey-white, and paper-like in texture, whereas the ones attached to buildings were more brown and of a mud-like consistency. Maybe they were made by different species, but for now, it would interesting to track what kind of nest this one will eventually turn out to be!

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