Paper Wasps in Winter

Paper wasps

Left: Paper wasps feed their larvae (look in the open cells) and guard their nest. The cells closed with silk caps contain pupae.
Right: An adult wasp rolls a caterpillar into a ball to take back to the nest and feed to the hungry larvae.

Paper Wasps build nests in sheltered areas and expand their colonies in the summer. In fall, the colony will disband. All the males and unmated females will die. Mated females (queens) will seek shelter from the elements, resting under leaves or underneath bark. In spring, the wasps will begin new colonies. A queen (foundress) will usually build a new nest from masticated wood mixed with saliva.

In some species, old nests may be utilized but only by a low percentage of foundresses. Using old nests would save energy, but the nest might contain pathogens detrimental to the colony. In some species, a new colony can be initiated by multiple foundresses. Multiple foundresses are all sisters who were in the same colony the previous fall. Paper wasps can recognize their sisters, but how they do this is not clear.

Jerry Lynn Allen, Kate Schulze-Kellman and George J. Gamboa. Clumping Patterns during Overwintering in the Paper Wasp, Polistes exclamans: Effects of Relatedness. Journal of the Kansas Entomological Society, Vol. 55, No. 1 (Jan., 1982), pp. 97-100.

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is an Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
This entry was posted in behavior, by jjneal, Environment. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Paper Wasps in Winter

  1. Pingback: Paper Wasps in Winter – Entomo Planet

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