Paper wasps again

Most people don’t like paper wasps because they have such a painful sting but I don’t think that’s enough of a reason to dislike them (the wasps, that is, not the people).

I find them interesting because their lifestyle bridges the gap between the social insects, like honey-bees and most ants, and the non-social majority. Paper wasps are technically semi-social, as shown in a chart borrowed from an introductory entomology course.

“Primitively eusocial wasp colonies, such as Polistes, are commonly inherited by dominant workers on the death of a queen,” according to a short but fairly technical article on Scitable about evolutionary advantages (through kin selection) of sociality.

All of which is an introduction to these recent photos, taken on one of the regular Wildlife Queensland walks. The first shows a paper wasp adding to its family home.

Paper wasp Polistes stigma
The wasp with construction material

The wasp is Polistes stigma townsvillensis, a local species which makes upside-down umbrella nests. (Nest styles, in fact, are a very reliable guide to species. The big papery nests are Yellow Paper Wasps (Ropalidia romandi), the little twiggy nests are Brown Paper Wasps (Ropalidia revolutionalis), and so on.)

Here’s the umbrella my featured wasp was working on, and a close-up from beneath it.

Paper wasp nest Polistes stigma
The nest, in a sheltered spot in a shrub
Paper wasp Polistes stigma
Larva visible in one cell, eggs in others, and an adult tending or guarding them

And here, for a totally unexpected bonus, is the tiny fly resting on my first wasp’s abdomen. Hitching a ride, or looking for a chance to parasitise the nest? I don’t know.

Paper wasp Polistes stigma
The hitch-hiking fly

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