Nature on our doorsteps: Very big wasps?

By Rosaleen Dwyer

Rosaleen Dwyer is the County Heritage Officer at South Dublin County Council – every week she gives us an insight into the natural heritage around us and the beautiful biodiversity of the plants and creatures

In April, people sometimes ask ‘Why are the wasps so much bigger this year?’

What people are noticing perhaps, are the new queen wasps emerging from hibernation. These are much larger than the summertime worker wasps, making queens very noticeable around now. 

Wasps will scrape away on wood using the pulp to make their nests compressor

Wasps will scrape away on wood, using the pulp to make their nests

Queens will only be seen out and about for a short while, however.  Once a small nest is built for her and her first brood of workers, the queen remains inside for the rest of the season. 

Wasps nest in hollow trees, thick shrubbery, and disused animal burrows. Our garden sheds and attic spaces also provide good nesting opportunities!  

Wasps nests are made from wood pulp. 

The queen begins the nest-building process, using her powerful jaws to chew up tiny pieces of wood. She mixes this into a pulp with her saliva, spreading it out into fine papery layers to form a sturdy nest. 

She can sometimes be heard scratching away at the surface of wooden garden furniture, collecting what she needs to add layers to her dome-shaped nest. 

The outer papery layers protect the inner chambers of the wasps nest compressor

The outer papery layers protect the inner chambers of the wasp's nest

Throughout the rest of the season, the worker wasps continue to expand the nest as the colony grows. 

If the queen is disturbed at the early stages of nest building, she will probably abandon the site, flying off to find a quieter place to start again.

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