New construction

There’s been a lot of building going on in my neighborhood.  Unlike new housing, though, these builders are fairly quiet.  In fact, I didn’t even notice the work was happening until I sat out on my little deck yesterday afternoon.  When I looked up, I saw a Paper Wasp putting together a nest.  I don’t know my local species all that well, yet, so I’ll have to update this post later on when I have more information.  I can tell you, though, that this wasp is in the Genus Polistes (either Polistes fuscatus or P. apachus, I’m guessing).  These wasps are, most importantly, not all that aggressive, so I’m content to see how the building goes, at the moment.  That may change if the colony gets too large.

Paper wasp colonies are interesting structures.  Instead of building a closed hive, the queen creates an open, honey-comb like structure.  It begins as a small structure and she slowly adds cell after cell to the colony.

Downing, H.A. and R.L. Jeanne.  1990.  The regulation of complex building behavior in the paper wasp, Polistes fuscatus (Insecta, Hymenoptera, Vespidae).  Animal Behaviour 39:  105-124.

Construction is often done by a single female who begins the colony and lays eggs in each of the cells.  As the young are born and pupate, they will usually join their mother at the colony to help rear other siblings (and sometimes add their own eggs to the nest, too).  Sometimes, a second female may also join the queen in establishing the colony and here’s where things get interesting.  If the second female is related to the queen, it’s possible that she won’t get to lay any eggs in the nest.  If, however, the second female is unrelated to the queen, then she will lay eggs in the nest.  Just how many eggs will the second female get?  Well, that is the big question!  This difference in the number of eggs between the queen and the second female is a measure of reproductive skew and it has been the subject of a great deal of study (in Paper Wasps, especially).

Luckily, for the queen on my deck, she’s all alone at the moment.  I’ll keep you posted on how she’s doing and whether or not anyone joins her.


About thomasbiology

I'm an Associate Professor of Biology at Queens University of Charlotte with a background in animal behavior with an emphasis in bird song. I've got two secret goals with this blog (well, since I'm sharing them, they're not so secret): 1. To encourage people to look at the natural world around them- not just as a hiking destination, but to notice all the little things moving around them all the time; and 2. To show some of the science that relates to these little things moving around. There's some really fascinating research out there that so few people get to see.
This entry was posted in ecology, insect, invertebrate, reproduction. Bookmark the permalink.

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