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Everyone knows wasps - as a troublemaker, as supposedly "dangerous" insects or in a similar perspective. But did you know that each race of these fascinating animals constructs a highly complex, technically advanced housing? We provide information about the general structure of a wasp nest.

In a nutshell

  • Location, size and construction varies from wasp species to wasp species
  • a wasp nest is only used for one year
  • chewed dead wood mixed with saliva serves as the building material
  • Wasp nests have air pockets, a type of natural air conditioning

The site

Even before the actual "how", the question of "where" arises with wasp nests. Because the location directly influences the construction and the intended functions of the wasp dwelling. In general, wasp species prefer two different locations:

German Wespe and Community Wespe - Locations with the following characteristics:

  • Dark
  • rainproof
  • e.g. in sheds, eaves, tree cavities, etc.

Here, a particularly high level of protection for the brood from both the weather and predators is achieved.

other species - locations with the following characteristics:

  • limited weather protection
  • well ventilated
  • usually hanging freely or only “leaning to”
  • e.g. on tree trunks, under branches etc.

This positioning gives the wasps particularly easy access to the nest. At the same time, possible overheating is prevented by the good ventilation. In addition, the good ventilation quickly removes moisture and helps to prevent fungi, germs or other pathogens from settling.

The building material

Anyone who has ever been able to look at or even touch a wasp nest or its remains up close will first notice the extreme lightness of the material. Both visually and haptically, it is very reminiscent of the papier-mâché that we all formed into lanterns or other objects as children. And in fact it is a closely related building material. Because the wasps use dead, partially rotted wood and mix the chewed fibers with their saliva into a malleable mass that is very tough and light at the same time after drying. From a purely technical point of view, the animals ultimately create a composite material from a natural glue and cellulose fibers - the wood. Depending on the wasp species and the wood found, the color can vary between light grey, dark gray and even brown tones.

Notice: Since the wasp nests are made from an organic material, they are comparatively susceptible to fungi, parasites and other harmful pathogens. Therefore, wasps only ever use a nest for one season, until the wasp colony dies off in the fall anyway. Every young queen begins to build a new dwelling when the state is founded in the spring.

The construction

When constructing their dwellings, wasp colonies prove to be accomplished master builders and innovative designers. Regardless of the exact characteristics depending on the location and wasp species, a wasp nest always has some basic construction principles:

  • spherical to drop-shaped basic shape
  • strongly varying, organic expression of this basic form
  • The interior is completely filled with honeycombs except for the aisles
  • inside very regular, uniform arrangement of the combs
  • Honeycombs as breeding places and for high constructive stability
  • Establishment and growth usually from spring to final size in early summer

Constructive details

In addition to the general structure, a wasp nest has some constructive peculiarities, which, despite their apparent simplicity, turn out to be real masterpieces of constructive efficiency:

The entry and exit hole

The entrance and exit opening of each nest is on the underside. This way no rain can penetrate and the exposure to moisture is reduced to a minimum. In addition, the outer layers of the nest hut are pulled out over the entry opening as a drip edge. This also prevents rainwater from capillary rising on the inside of the nest to reach the sensitive interior.

Wasp nest with exit hole and air pockets

air pockets

The nest structures of the common wasp and the German wasp have semi-circular air pockets on the outer shell that are open at the bottom. They are integrated into the layers of the shell and serve as a temperature buffer. This effectively prevents both summer overheating and excessive cooling down, despite the simplest of measures. On closer inspection, building a wasp nest seems as simple as it is ingenious.

frequently asked Questions

Why is a wasp nest waterproof despite papier-mâché?

Although the building material of the wasps is organic and contains a high proportion of plant fibers, the saliva of the wasps and the comparatively dense surface make it very insensitive to water. However, a permanently high level of humidity still causes problems for the nest over time. Therefore, many species seek locations with at least moderate weather protection.

Can the wasp species be identified from the wasp nest?

Yes. The typical large nests, which are mainly built dark and hidden, often come from the particularly troublesome German wasp and common wasp species. On the other hand, small nests no bigger than a fist, which can be found again and again in a wide variety of places in the house and garden, usually belong to other, harmless species.

Can I remove wasp nests?

No. Wasps are protected by the Federal Nature Conservation Act. Therefore, they must not be killed or "only" disturbed. This includes removing the nest. If a nest has to be removed, experts can move it to another location under strict conditions.

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