Paper Wasp Nest – Now What?
Fri, Nov 28, 2008 at 12:55 PM
For almost two months now, I’ve been watching and photographing a paper wap nest in my back yard here in Hawthorne, California. It fell Thanksgiving Day from it’s location under a shelf in what we call “The Sanctuary”. Image 1 is of one of the wasps still on the nest at that time. I’m sure it’s in the genus Polistes, but it doesn’t look exactly like the photos of Polistes Dominulus I find posted on your site. Image 2 is what is left of the nest this morning, the day after Thansgiving. What is perplexing me is pictured in the third image I’ve attached. There are a bunch of these wasps congregating at the exact spot where the nest was originally. What are they doing?
We believe your Paper Wasps are Polistes aurifer, named the Golden Polistes by Charles Hogue who at the time his book, Insects of the Los Angeles Basin was reprinted in 1993, still considered this to be a subspecies of Polistes fuscatus. BugGuide does consider it to be a separate Western species. You didn’t indicate what caused the nest to fall. We suspect it was the recent deluge and winds in Southern California just before Thanksgiving.
According to Hogue: “The umbrella-shaped nests, which are made of a peper-like substance similar to that produced by the Yellow Jacket, are composed of a single layer of cells and attached by a short stem to the underside of overhanging surfaces (eaves or fence rails, for example). Adult wasps gather caterpillars, which they skin and chew before feeding them to the grub-like larvae developing in the cells.” The reason the wasps have congregated around the nest site is that for the past few months, they have been in the habit if returning to the nest. Much like people who have “lost everything” in a fire or other disaster, if the site is still attractive, your wasps may choose to rebuild in the same location.