Paper wasps – by David Morwood

Paper wasps QNC Meeting 16-03-09, by David Morwood

Qld museum’s publication “Wildlife Of Greater Brisbane” is the source of names in this note.

We have several common paper wasps in Brisbane

2 are in genus polistes,

Bigger than others : 12-16 mm: ‘ inverted mushroom ‘ nests.

3 are in genus ropalidia:

2 build small hanging nests, single or double ‘sticks’ of cells

One, ropalidia romandi is the smallest of these, with the biggest nest.

The four bigger wasps build nests around houses, under eaves, on verandas, under outdoor chairs etc

They are mostly fairly peaceful but attack guests, grandchildren, strangers And they ‘sit down heavy”. We’ve all seen their nests.

But “that’s not a nest. This is a nest”

A nest of ropalidia romandi.

A nest of ropalidia romandi. A nest of ropalidia romandi closeup


It grew on our lemon scented gum, corymbia citriodora (the real one) for many years, and fell down in the big wind of 17 November 2008. The wasps were still using it at the time.

I found it some weeks later, with no sign of wasps or pupae. It has lost most of its outer skin of paper, but is otherwise complete.

The structure is an engineering master piece. It’s extremely light and rigid. The space between elements inside is just right for wasps, it’s like a big apartment building, all organised.

Replacement nest

The replacement nest was built in 4 months. In the same place as the old one. About 9 metres above our driveway The tree loses all its bark every year except for the bit holding the nest

You can see that the wasps rebuild the edges of the nest onto new bark as soon as the old bark falls off. So they work to keep it there. You can see several layers of bark on the top of the old nest.

David Morwood Apr 2009

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