Wasps With Paper Houses and Bad Reputations

Out of the thousands of different species of wasps, only hornets, yellow jackets and paper wasps get a big reaction. “There’s a wasp!” is rarely an exclamation of delight and for good reason. These wasps pack a potent stinger on their rear end. The three different species are not equally likely to sting, but all three are commonly feared on sight. Learning a little about them can help you avoid getting stung and allow you to appreciate their building skills and their positive role in the balance of nature.

Paper Home Construction 101

Hornets, yellow jackets and paper wasps are social insects that live in colonies similar to honey bees and ants. They construct paper nests to shelter their developing baby wasps. To make the paper, these wasps bite splinters off old wood from houses or fences or bite off pieces of plants. The wasps chew up mouthfuls of these woody bits along with water. When spread out and dried, the pulpy paste makes a kind of paper.

Wasp papermaking is similar to how humans make handmade paper, except we don’t mix the paper slurry with our jaws.

Ground, Tree or Roof – Each Kind to Its Own Space

Each species of social wasp has a different building plan for home construction and a different preferred home location. Shelters made out of paper cannot withstand a whole winter’s worth of moisture and wind so wasps always start a new nest every year. Once you know where they typically locate their homes, you can use your detective skills to find them near where you live. Cautiously!

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