How do paper wasp larvae not fall from their nest?

How do paper wasp larvae not fall from their nest?

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There is now a paper wasp nest hanging from the eaves of my bedroom. Not very big, I supposed about a hundred chambers and about 7 to 10 adults in total. I observe it every now and then.

It just occurred to me that when the larvae first hatch, they are so small compared to the chamber diameter. So here are two questions:

  1. How do they not fall off, being suspended and all?
  2. Is there any known statistics of how often larvae fall off (for a particular species, let's say)?

Social wasp larvae hatch from an overhanging egg, and they grow up through a series of skin moults, typically 5 in number. The shed skins accumulate terminally behind their pointed anus, where the egg chorion peduncule remain. These wasps have a special body construction and skin texture (e.g. abdominal lobes, numerous spikes) that allows for pressing against the cell walls.

You can see these traits from high-resolution images shown in the larval descriptions: Florida Entomologist, 95(4):890-899 (2012) Sociobiology 63(3): 998-1004 (2016)

Finally, it should be minded that gravity doesn't affect small insects in the same way it affect larger mammals like humans. This means it way takes less effort and sticky secretions for these bugs to hang onto walls than we typically imagine by common sense.

I don't know of any dedicated estimations on fallen larvae, but I guess the event isn't common, unless perhaps in abnormally structurally-challenged nests.

What I can say from observing an abandoned nest, larvae have a connection to the chamber ceiling. I don't know what it is, exactly, but looks like some form of glue.

Paper Wasp

Paper wasps are social insects that build grey, paper-like nests in trees and vegetation, or under the eaves of homes, docks and garages.

Color Varies with Species
Legs 6
Shape Oval with smoky black wings flat in the resting position
Size ¾" - 1" inch long
Antennae True

What Does a Paper Wasp Look Like?

Getting their name from the material they use to build their nests, paper wasps are also known as &ldquoumbrella wasps.&rdquo With 22 species in North America, they have slender bodies, yellow markings and black wings.

Wasps have more defined waists than bees, their colors are often brighter and they are more likely to sting &mdash though most wasps don&rsquot even sting. Most wasps are solitary, but many will build a communal nest for their offspring to mature in.

With over 100,000 species worldwide, wasps are one of the most important flying insects. They keep other insect populations down and also engage in pollination. In fact, nearly every pest insect on Earth is preyed on by a wasp species &mdash either as food or a host for its parasitic larvae. Wasps are so good at controlling pest populations that agriculture now deploys them to protect crops.

Some wasps are social and will become aggressive when defending their nests, but most wasp species are solitary and non-stinging. They spend their days foraging for food and finding insects to paralyze and they their eggs inside &mdash providing a built-in food source for their offspring.

Paper Wasp Habits

Paper wasps are semi-social insects with a caste made up of workers, queens and males. Fertilized queens overwinter in protected spaces beneath tree bark or in cracks and crevices in homes.

When spring arrives, they select a nesting site, begin building a nest and lay their eggs. In late summer, the queen stops laying eggs and the colony declines.

Paper wasps can be annoying, but they are usually considered beneficial insects. They prey mainly on insects and tend to avoid humans when possible. To avoid their wrath, try to avoid their nesting sites.

Where Do Paper Wasps Live?

Paper wasp nests are built from wood fiber collected from plants, which is chewed to form paper-like, hexagonal cells that come together to form a nest resembling an upside-down umbrella. Mature nests contain up to 200 cells.

Since her nest is fragile, the queen will seek out a protected area like a doorway, eave, doorframe, tree limb, dense vegetation or even stacks of wood for her kingdom.

Forging during the day and resting at night, paper wasps prey on caterpillars, flies, plant nectar and beetle larvae, which they often feed to their own young.

Once her larvae grow to adulthood, the queen reigns and lays eggs as her young gather food, build nests and tend to the larvae. By late summer there are as many as 5,000 wasps in a nest.

If the queen dies, the most aggressive female will become the new queen and begin to lay her own eggs. In late summer or fall, males, unmated females and the founding queen will all die. Mated females will go into hibernation during the winter and emerge in the spring to form colonies of their own. Only fertilized queens will survive the cold.

What Are Paper Wasps Attracted To?

Paper wasps are attracted to things that resemble their favorite pollination targets, so avoid wearing perfumes and bright colors, or patterns that could resemble flowers.

Do All Paper Wasps Sting?

While paper wasps can be dangerous and aggressive, they generally do not attack unless they or their nests are bothered. Paper wasps will sting to protect their colony, releasing toxins that can be harmful to mammals like birds, wolves, cats and dogs.

Humans can also experience severe reactions when stung by paper wasps. Wasps can sting repeatedly causing pain, swelling and whole-body effects that can trigger allergic reactions that may result in death.

To avoid their stings, leave the immediate area and don&rsquot swat or squash wasps. These behaviors will release pheromones that attract other angry wasps.

After a sting, wash the wound with water to remove the venom and treat with an antihistamine product that can help ease the pain. If you start to experience dizziness, fatigue, nausea or trouble breathing, seek immediate medical attention.

Wasp stings may also transfer harmful bacteria that could result in infection or even sepsis. If the wound remains hot and inflamed for more than eight to 12 hours, seek immediate medical attention.

Getting Rid of Paper Wasps

There are several methods of getting rid of wasps, some more effective than others. Since a wasp may travel up to 1,000 yards in search of food, wasp traps aren&rsquot always adequate. Still, setting out wasp traps in early spring, when there are fewer wasps, is the most practical method. By killing the queen early in the season, you can prevent the appearance of thousands of workers.

You can also use a glass wasp trap or make a homemade trap out of a 2-liter Coke bottle with dish soap at the bottom.

Professionals can remove wasps in a non-toxic way using vacuums or dusts. Nests in wall voids are particularly difficult to remove and require professional help since failed removal attempts could push a nest further into a house. Never try to burn an active wasp nest, since this will make them angry and aggressive.

How Do I Keep Paper Wasps Away from My House?

To prevent wasps from setting up near your home, seal up any entry points like unsealed vents, torn screens, window cracks and open dampers. Hanging a fake wasp nest could also prevent industrious wasps from building nearby.

In the spring and summer, when wasps are looking for protein, remove any outside pet food or picnic scraps, open garbage or compost bins. In late summer and early fall, wasps start to crave sugary foods, so watch out for open soda cans, fruit juice and fallen fruit. Cover compost and avoid walking barefoot near fruit trees.

Painting the eaves of your home sky blue can also prevent nest construction since wasps will not build a nest on blue paint.

If wasps are spoiling your outdoor fun, fill out the form below and one of Arrow&rsquos dedicated professionals will send these pests packing.

Our proprietary process, the STEPS® Total Protection System™, looks closely at the total picture, top to bottom, inside and out. We carefully conduct a home pest inspection of your property looking for potential entry points and signs of pest activity that are often difficult to detect. This comprehensive pest and termite inspection is the only way to determine the real root of a pest problem, as well as the best way to solve it.

For a no obligation free pest control quote for your home, please complete the form below. We'll take it from there. One of our trained professionals will contact you upon receiving your request and set up a date and time that is convenient for you. Thank you for your interest in our free home pest inspection.

Paper wasps may be considered beneficial insects because they are predators of other arthropods, such as insects (e.g., caterpillars) and spiders. Gardeners often appreciate that wasps prey on garden pests, such as caterpillars. Adult paper wasps immobilize and feed the prey arthropods to their developing progeny however, adult wasps feed primarily on sugar (e.g., ripe fruit, honeydew, nectar).

During fall months when temperatures begin to cool, some wasp females mate with male paper wasps. Male wasps die shortly after mating. Mated females find shelter for the winter in covered areas, such as attics, tree hollows or other protected areas. You might observe several mated females clustering together during the winter period.

When warmer spring temperatures arrive, new nests are built by mated female wasps (generally not related to each other). Dominant female paper wasps will begin building nests for egg laying and may even overtake nests of other (less dominant) females. In some cases, large numbers of females will continue construction on an existing nest and nests can be reused for multiple years.

What Do Wasp Nests Look Like?

Below are pictures of wasp nests, some of them sent in to me by readers sharing their experiences.

A wasp nest, depending on the species and number of wasps, can be a  fantastic and sophisticated structure - truly architectural masterpieces to rival the honeycombs made by honey bees!  

Wasp nest identification

Of those wasps that build their own nests, the size of the structure and materials used may vary depending on factors such as:

  • the species 
  • the country you are in
  • whether they are social or solitary wasps.

In addition, nests could occur in the ground (typically referred to as 'yellow jackets'), or can be seen hanging from tree branches, eaves of buildings (paper wasps), or other supports as aerial nests, again depending on species.

Aerial wasp nests are typically greyish, greyish-green, or straw coloured in appearance.

This nest below was made by a social wasp species and was 'lodged' inside a shrub.  The picture was taken in the UK.  As you can see, this nest has a papery appearance, as if there are leaves of grey paper stuck together in an overlapping fashion to form a kind of spherical ball shape. 

Above: Wasp nest found in a garden shrub - my thanks to Kelly Pinnick for permission to use this image

Below is another nest, much smoother in appearance.  This was constructed by a solitary wasp species, and was discovered in our attic.  

Funnily enough, we didn't even notice it until after the season had well finished!  They had not caused any trouble.  However, I had previously found a few sleepy, overwintering wasp queens in the folds of an old sleeping bag.  I didn't do anything about the wasps - I simply left them alone.  We genuinely were not bothered by the wasps, and being a solitary species, only a few wasps would ever emerge.

Above: Solitary wasp nest found in our attic

How long do wasp nests last? 

W asp colonies only last a season.  As with bumble bees, only the queens survive to establish future colonies and the rest of the colony dies.  In warm weather, and maybe in different geographical regions, a colony may thrive longer.

Nests are only used once.  Indeed, it is for this reason that if you wish to deter wasps building a nest in the same place the following year, it is advisable to leave at least part of the nest structure in place once the nest has been abandoned. 

The reason for this is that wasps are territorial and typically avoid founding new colonies close to other nests.  In actual fact, some wasp deterrents use this principle to advantage, by creating a 'dummy' nest to dissuade queens from starting colonies nearby.  You can read more about this below.

Wasp nest construction: how are wasp nests made?

As stated before, wasps are magnificent architects!  Truly!

These photographs below show a little of the inside of the social wasp nest pictured above. 

You can see the structure is composed of neat, hexagonal shaped cells in which the young are reared.  The hexagonal cell structure is a super efficient way to use space and fit compartments together, whilst using the minimum amount of materials (and hence resources).  Indeed, this hexagonal structure is of course used by honey bees too! 

Wasps are magnificent architects!

The cells are constructed by using thin scrapings of wood the wasps have gathered from fencing, logs, garden furniture etc.  The wasp mixes the fine scrapings of wood with the saliva in her mouth.  This breaks down the fibres into a pulp which are then used for constructing the cells.  It's a little like the craft of paper making!  

Signs of wasp activity

Given that some wasps gather fine shavings of wood with which to build their nests, you may see tell tale signs of wasp activity in the form of tiny scratches on wooden fences and garden furniture as below.

Above: If you look very closely, there are pale white, vertical scratches on this old piece of wooden fencing. Wasps have been gathering material with which to create pulp for constructing their nests.

Seeing these markings could indicate there is or has been a wasp nest nearby. 

Last year, wasps here were collecting material from our garden fencing (above).   They were using it to construct a nest in ivy growing up an old tree in our neighbour's garden.  Our neighbours had sold the house and had already moved out. 

Unfortunately, I was unable to get myself into a position to be able to take a photograph of the wasp nest.  The new neighbours removed the old nest before I had the opportunity to see it.  A disappointment for me!

Where do wasps build their nests?

As stated, a nest may be in the ground - or in a compost heap, for that matter, or cavity in a building or other structure - this is the preferred kind of location for a yellow-jacket type wasp - for example Vespa germanica.  

When building aerial nests, paper wasps commonly build their nests in trees, hanging from tree branches or the eaves of buildings.  

* Wasp nest on eaves of a house, apartment, other building or deck overhang 

I received a wonderful email and photograph from Kellie in Canada, of a lovely paper wasp nest:

Above: Social wasp nest on Kellie's deck overhang. She chose to leave it alone.

"I came here to learn more about a wasp nest that was getting larger on my apartment's deck overhang. 

As I have 2 decks, I chose to leave the nest alone.  As the nest grew, I found that the wasps were not aggressive when I went out to water the planter boxes on the deck, and noticed them taking advantage of the water and flowers.

I have a new appreciation for wasps and wanted to thank you for your helpful information".

I'm so glad Kellie found the information on this website helpful.  I genuinely believe that a lot of the beliefs we have about such things (like wasps) are handed down and taken for granted.  When we try and take a step back and be open to the idea that things might be different, we can get a pleasant surprise!

However, if you wish to prevent wasps building nests in such locations, you can do so without killing them.  I recommend using a Waspinator - they are not too expensive, and further information is provided below.  I especially recommend installing a Waspinator around schools and public buildings.

Other deterrents are also detailed below.

* In a cavity 

A cavity could be underground, in a building, or even. inside a barbecue, as was the case here.  Such nests typically belong to the yellow jacket kind.  I'm very grateful to Deborah Hammond from the USA, for sending me these pictures of the nest inside her barbecue.

The top of the wasp nest inside the barbecue.

I'm grateful to Deborah for allowing me to use these images.

Here you get a better view of the structure from the side. They are apparently using the bars to support the nest structure.

"They particularly loved my red dahlias. I worked in the garden all summer and was not bothered. It made my visitors nervous, but I agree with you about simply maintaining calm. …" 

Inside the wasp nest, the amazing architecture exposed.

". Wait, I did get stung once when I wrapped my hand around a tool handle, not realizing there was a wasp on it. Hurt like a mama!"

Ouch! I'm impressed that Deborah remained so tolerant of the wasps after this accident, and didn't mind putting her hand close to the abandoned nest later - the image below helps provide an idea of the size of the nest.

Deborah's hand by the abandoned nest helps to provide some idea of scale.

Deborah took fantastic photographs, and I especially like the one below - a close up photograph of those amazing nest cells.

Amazing hexagonal nest cells, intricately constructed from tiny shavings of wood.

* Wasp nest in the shed or garage

Nests are commonly found in sheds and garages, and this photograph below provides a clear image of a nice smooth looking wasp nest in its entirety, that was found in a shed. 

* Wasp nests in chimneys

Another favourite place is the chimney – my sister had such a scenario - it was the 'yellow jacket' type.  She asked me what I thought she should do. 

Taking into account that the nest was basically paper, and could be a potential fire hazard, I advised her against lighting a fire in order to 'smoke the wasps out'.  Anyway, this could have backfired and made the wasps very angry! 

In my sister's case, fortunately, she did not use that particular room (where the fire place was located) very often, and it being a warm summer, she did not need to light the fire.  She simply kept the door closed to keep the wasps out of the rest of the house. 

Later in the year, when the wasps were no longer active, she removed the nest from the chimney, and got the vacuum cleaner out to clear away any dead wasps left behind in the room.

* Wasp nest in a bird house

I received a wonderful email from a lady in Somerset, England, UK.  

"I would like to send you a photo of the wasp which is nesting in the old bird house on my kitchen wall. They are median wasps and the nest is 'clothed with smooth grey sheets' just as it says in my insect guide book. I think you will enjoy seeing it. Very unusual - at least for me."

In fact, she sent me 2 great images  - and a further image when the wasps had left the nest, which I am pleased to share further with visitors to this page - really interesting, because you can see how the layers have been created, and how this opportunistic wasp appears to have made good use of the bird box, much as honey bees might use a bee hive.

Above: Nest of the Median wasp Dolichovespula media in an old bird house.

Above: The same wasp nest some time later, showing enlarged entrance hole at the bottom.

Above: Within a few weeks, the nest is no longer active, and is beginning to look a little ragged.

* Wasp nest in the compost heap

For a couple of years, we had a nest in our compost heap.  At that time, the composter was made of plastic, and close to the back door of the house.  There were wasps going in and out all the time.  I am especially tolerant, however, and didn’t worry about the nest.  I simply stopped using the composter for some months. 

Later, we dismantled the compost bin, and moved it to another area of the garden.  The wasps did not come back.  We then acquired a larger compost bin, and bumble bees moved in, and successfully reared workers, males and new queens :).

Anyway, I was never stung (and nor have I ever been stung by a wasp), nor was my husband (though he has previously been stung: at that time, he used to hate wasps and reacted accordingly, but he has since developed a tolerance of them, and now leaves them alone).   I find I am able to keep calm around wasps, and believe this is part of the answer, but that's just my opinion.  

It's very curious that some people are stung and others are not.  

I can tolerate wasps landing on my arms or hands.  Similarily, I have seen videos of beekeepers who handle whole colonies of honey bees - bare chested, and with no hat - and are never stung, whereas most beekeepers wear gloves, overalls and veils.  I can also handle bees, and despite having red ants in nearly every allotment bed on our allotment, I have never been bitten at all - but I do love ants too, and can watch them for hours!

But I tremble at the site of a large spider!  On seeing cockroaches in India, I tried to not be bothered by them, but failed miserably - and they were HUGE!  Give me a wasp any day

Oh - and did you know that some wasps help keep down the populations of pest cockroaches?  The gorgeous emerald green jewel wasp is one such example of such a helpful wasp.  Thank goodness!  

* Wasp nests in the loft or attic

Another common place to see wasp nests, and sometimes an occasional hibernating queen or two, is in the loft or attic. 

As stated, we have had hibernating wasp queens in the attic,  and we found a nest - already abandoned.  I am quite protective, and never harm the queens. 

Everyone's situation is different, and indeed, an especially large nest could cause alarm, especially where there are pets and young children.

Educating the next generation about wasps

Please see my page about the structure of a social wasp nest.  Some lovely pictures are shared, and further explanation about the building of the nest itself.  The lady who sent in the images could hardly wait to take the pieces of nest to a school for children to learn all about it!  

I believe understanding helps to replace fear with respect. 

A calm approach plus an awareness of the benefits of having wasps around, will help put things in perspective.  For example, in my experience, there is rarely a major threat from solitary wasps, and nests can be left alone. 

Seek assistance if a nest is large and intolerable - take steps to repel or deter them in the future

If you discover a large nest and find this intolerable, you will have to call for professional help. 

Alternatively, you could leave the nest alone and could remove any disused nest at the end of the season, or leave the remaining nest to deter wasps from building a new one close by in future. 

If you are going to remove an old, disused nest yourself, wear protective gloves and clothing to ensure you are not caught out by any left-behind wasps.  After that, you could try some natural means to repel wasps, or install a Waspinator .  

They need to be put in place at the beginning of the season, before wasps arrive, otherwise they won't work.

A Waspinator looks like a wasp nest, thus deterring wasps from building a nest nearby, because - as stated earlier, wasps are territorial.  You could have a go at making one, but on the other hand, they are not too expensive and should last some time. If you already have the materials, you may as well make one.

You can also use them to take with you on picnics.  I do not advise similar products made from paper - they are not durable, and though initially cheaper, probably will not last as long.

You can get a Waspinator from Amazon .  Or if you have suitable materials, you could make your own.  

(Disclaimer: as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases from links on my site - this won't affect the price to you, and helps me with the cost of running this site where I provide lots of free information.  Because I would like to have wasp nests in my garden, I have never tried this method, but have heard good reports when used correctly).

If the nest appears on school premises, the wasp colony may be finished and gone by the time children return from the summer vacation period.   An empty nest may then provide an interesting talking and study opportunity - ensure there are no wasps inside. 

On the other hand, the nest may be very active. 

Seek assistance as appropriate.  You could also consult a local wildlife organisation - are they able to advise you of the species, and whether it will soon be gone anyway?  

Keeping wasps out of the garden and away from the house or office block

If you are simply bothered by wasps in the garden, remember they are excellent pollinators and natural pest-controllers, but if you still find them intolerable, then try the repellents mentioned - and see the very practical tips on my page about deterring wasps.

Why are farmers turning to wasps to help them control crop eating pests?


Review the images for tips on how to identify these predators.


Unlike flies, bees, and many other wasps, these fold their 4 wings up longitudinally when not flying (see comparison). They also have large, “elbowed” antennae, “notched” eyes, and long, gangly legs.


The grub-like larvae live inside individual cells of the paper nest, and are cared for initially by the queen, and later by her workers. After larvae have fully grown, they will pupate inside of a capped cell.

Are paper wasp nests worth money?

Paper wasps fetch the highest price, at $2,000 per pound. &ldquoThe species is in high demand, so every one counts,&rdquo Benton said. Fewer paper wasps nest together than other species, so it takes longer to collect them.

Likewise, how do you get rid of a paper wasp nest? To destroy the nest, pour soapy water over it, which will drown the wasps. If you can't reach the nest, use a hose-end spray bottle to spray the nest with the soapy water. You can also try spraying the nest with a pesticide spray or sprinkling an insecticidal dust over it, which will kill the wasps inside.

Similarly, should I kill paper wasp nest?

Larger nests, or those found later in the season, should be handled cautiously. Never attempt to remove an active wasp nest during the day, when the insects are actively flying in and out of the nest. Wait until evening, when the paper wasps have settled in for the night, to treat or remove any nest.

How much can you sell a wasp nest for?

Lately, it has been trendy to have abandoned wasps' nests used in home décor. Online marketplace eBay has nest for sale ranging in price from $4.99 to $55. Lately, it has been trendy to have abandoned wasps' nests used in home décor. Online marketplace eBay has nest for sale ranging in price from $4.99 to $55.

How do you keep wasps from coming back in the same spot?

Also Know, what smells do wasps hate? It's easy-- wasps and hornets HATE the scent of peppermint oil. Mix a tablespoon of peppermint oil with four cups of water, and you've got a powerful repellent spray it's even effective enough to drive the wasps and hornets from their nests, but without dangerous chemicals.

Also Know, why do wasps return to same place?

After the occupants have expired, new queens and wasps do not inhabit existing nests, they build new ones each year. Leaving a nest that is empty can actually deter others from building in the same spot. Other than that, sealing up all siding and soffit gaps in a structure are key in discouraging paper wasp nests.

Do Wasps return to same place?

Wasps do not generally return to the same place year after year. However, some roofs are favoured for their position and habitat. Some people say to us "we get a wasp nest every year".

Social Nonprimate Animals

Paper Wasps

Hornet, yellow jacket, and many temperate-zone open-nesting paper wasp colonies are dominated by despotic queens ( Hermann et al., 2017 Hermann and Dirks, 1975 ). Certain temperate open-nesting paper wasp species (such as Polistes annularis, the red paper wasp) demonstrate dominance behavior, which ideally terminates in a weakly despotic hierarchy between co-founding females, the alpha female dominating but tolerating other cofoundresses.

Dominance varies in this species from poorly defined to despotic, resulting in a selection process that determines the survivability of the colony. Many tropical species have a similar cofounding behavior. Subordinate cofoundresses assume all worker duties during the nest-founding stage until adult workers (infertile daughters of the alpha female, the queen) are produced, commencing the ergonomic phase of nest life. 2

Cofounding behavior is extremely important in species that occupy areas with an especially high threat from predation (as in tropical areas of the world). For instance, Parachartergus azteca, a wasp species I studied in acacia trees in Mexico, would not have been able to establish their nests in trees occupied by pseudomyrmecine ants if they did not commence nesting with a number of cofoundresses (Hermann, unpublished). A single female may be able to land on the tree, temporarily keep pseudomyrmecine worker ants away and commence nest-building, but once she deposits an egg and leaves the nest for provisioning, foraging ants would move in and prey upon the eggs and young. With cofounding females present, certain of the females that remain on the nest at all times protect it from ants while others forage for food and building materials. There is no doubt about why tropical areas have a high number of cofounding paper wasp species. Predation in tropical countries (especially with regards to invertebrate predation) is greater than in temperate regions, and cofounding females are needed on the nest while others collect nest-making materials and food.

Cofounding among paper wasps is in certain respects similar to groups of early human settlers in North America working together to build a village. Safety was in numbers. The group size and degree of cooperation were important to their survival.

Paper Wasp Nest

When I started to check out a bluebird box last week I was greeted by a red wasp which nailed me in the abdomen through my T-shirt. I got my revenge on the wasps with pyrethrin spray*(see below). I cleaned out the wasp bodies, and removed the nest to study the babies.

These were red paper wasps, Polistes carolina, a species that that commonly builds nests in bird houses as well as under eaves and other concealed places around our houses. They form their nests using wood fibers which they chew and mix with saliva to create hexagonal cells for their young. The larvae are protected by the adults in a complex society described in Wikipedia.

Larvae in cells

The nest is attached by a thin but tough pedicle and cells are arranged to orient the growing larvae head-down towards the ground. "Paper wasps secrete a chemical which repels ants, which they spread around the base of the anchor to prevent the loss of eggs or brood." (Paper wasps). As they grow the larvae will pupate, spinning a cocoon of silk which caps the chamber.

Larvae inside pupal cells
In this video I first exposed the nest to sunlight. Since they are normally hanging upside down in a dark place, the larvae of different ages began to move randomly, trying to figure out what was going on. I then opened a few sealed chambers, exposing larvae that hadn't had a chance to complete pupation. They wiggled aimlessly and were incapable of purposeful movement like many other species' larvae.

While nursing the sting I had to remind myself that paper wasps have a beneficial role in the nature. They are are important in controlling populations of other species that we consider pests such as hornworms and tent caterpillars. They also feed on other insects such as the larvae of beetles, flies and moths. They also feed on nectar and thus serve as pollinators.

* Pyrethrum Spray - Several sources such as recommended pyrethrum as a safe way to remove wasps from a birdhouse. Pyrethrins are gradually replacing organophosphates and organochlorides as pesticides of choice, since these other compounds have been shown to have significant and persistent toxic effects to humans.

There is a lot of research on Polistes species learning and memory, behavior, facial recognition, and even personality at this link.

Colorado State University Extension has extensive information on the European paper wasps now found throughout the US. The life cycle is similar to our native Polistes species as described here.

"Nests are constructed of paper, produced from chewed wood fibers of weathered fences, porch decks and similar sites. Initially, a few hexagonal paper cells are formed and eggs laid in the cells. Upon hatch, the wasp larvae are fed crushed insects, usually caterpillars, that the overwintered queen discovers in foraging trips among nearby plants.

Selected References

Bambara SB, Waldvogel M. 2004. Controlling paper wasps in and around structures. North Carolina State University Department of Entomology, North Carolina Cooperative Extension. ENT/rsc-9.

Borror DJ, White RE. 1970. A field guide to insects. New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin.

Buck M, Marshall SA, Cheung DKB. 2008. "Identification atlas of the Vespidae (Hymenoptera, Aculeata) of the northeastern Nearctic Region." Canadian Journal of Arthropod Identification 5: 492.

Carpenter JM. 1996. "Distributional checklist of species of the genus (Hymenoptera: Vespidae Polistinae, Polistini)." American Museum Novitates 3188 1&ndash39.

Hahn J, Pellitteri P, Lewis D. 2009. Wasp and bee control. University of Minnesota Extension.

Hunt JH. 2011. "A conceptual model for the origin of worker behaviour and adaptation of eusoclialty." Journal of Evolutionary Biology 25: 1&ndash19.

Johnson NF, Triplehorn CA. 2005. Borror and DeLong's Introduction to the Study of Insects. Belmont: Brooks/Cole, Cengage Learning.

Richards OW. 1963. "The species of Ashmead (Hymenoptera, Masaridae)." University of California Publications in Entomology 27: 283&ndash304.

Seppä P, Queller DC, Strassman JE. 2002. "Reproduction in foundress associations of the social wasp: Conventions, competition, and skew." Behavioral Ecology 13: 531&ndash542.

Strassman JE, Fortunato A, Cervo R, Turillazzi S, Damon J, Queller DC. 2004. "The cost of queen loss in the social wasp (Hymenoptera: Vespidae)." Journal of the Kansas Entomological Society 77: 343&ndash355.