You’re in the garden, enjoying the sunshine, and suddenly you spot a paper wasp. But before you leap up in fright, watch what she does.
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 enjoying a lunch of nectar. Just like bees, wasps are one of the most important pollinators in the garden.
Any young female wasp who 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 the high life 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 wasps 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.
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