Backyard Buddies
Paper Wasps

Photo: David Finnegan /OEH

Paper Wasps

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Native Paper Wasps are found all over Australia except in Tasmania and, although only aggressive when defending their nests, it is best to steer clear of them.

But their behaviour can give you a clue to how they spend their lives.

The female wasp is always busy. If she's tapping her way along a leaf, she'۪s probably looking for a caterpillar to feed her larvae. If she's fossicking on an old fence paling, chances are she's scraping up wood fibres to make a nest. If she's busy in a flower, she'۪s feeding on nectar. Just like bees, wasps are one of the most important pollinators in the garden.

Any young female wasp that starts a nest inevitably turns into a queen, and even breeds up her own army of builders to help with the job. She mixes the wood fibres with saliva to make a pulp which is used to shape the first few 'cells' of the nest, fitting each cell next to the last and laying an egg in each. This first brood hatch into workers which take over the building of the nest into an upside down cone-shaped structure, delicately suspended on a stalk of pulp.

The business of nest-making is fascinating to observe and luckily Native Paper Wasps prefer to nest in a high position of a tree branch or house eave. Left undisturbed, your paper wasps will make a grandly designed home and keep garden pests at bay.

A Paper Wasp nest consists of a number of cells, grouped together to form a comb. The comb is attached to a surface such as a branch or rock face. Native wasp species can be identified by their nests as each has a distinctive design.

How to tell Native from Non-native Wasps

Australia has about 35 species of native paper wasp ranging from 8-26 mm in length. All are yellow, brown or black striped.

The introduced European Wasp has very bold yellow bands on a black background and is far more aggressive than Australian Native Wasps. European Wasps can cause nasty stings. They are a pest species and if you think you have seen one, call your local council to report it.

Their nests are a give-away: a European Wasp nest is usually hidden underground or in a cavity, whereas the native paper wasp nest hangs out in the open.

Did you know? 

Wasps parasitise or eat many insect pests, such as leaf-mining flies, which would otherwise damage commercial crops

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Photo: OEH