INSECTS: Most have a distinct thin “wasp waist”. Unlike bees, wasps are predators and do valuable work by killing many pest insects. However, some are also attracted to human food and both them and their nests can be very annoying. Common wasps are paper wasps (also called umbrella wasps), mud dauber wasps, bald-faced hornets, and yellow jackets.
The nests of some social wasps, such as hornets, are first constructed by the queen and reach about the size of a walnut before sterile female workers take over construction. The queen initially starts the nest by making a single layer or canopy and working outwards until she reaches the edges of the cavity. Beneath the canopy she constructs a stalk to which she can attach several cells; these cells are where the first eggs will be laid. The queen then continues to work outwards to the edges of the cavity after which she adds another tier. This process is repeated, each time adding a new tier until eventually enough female workers have been born and matured to take over construction of the nest leaving the queen to focus on reproduction. For this reason, the size of a nest is generally a good indicator of approximately how many female workers there are in the colony and some hornets’ nests eventually grow to the size of beach balls. Social wasp colonies often have populations of between three and ten thousand female workers at maturity, although a small proportion of nests are seen on a regular basis that are over three feet across and potentially contain upwards of twenty thousand workers and at least one queen. What has also been seen are nests close to one another at the beginning of the year growing quickly and merging with one another to create nests with tens of thousands of workers. Some related types of paper wasp do not construct their nests in tiers but rather in flat single combs.