The wasps in these photos have made our eastern side barbed wire fence their home and always give me a painful reminder of their presence when I mow past them. The nest in the corner of the building is at a nearby friends home. Most of Australia's wasps live solitary lives, hunting and feeding alone. A few, such as the paper wasps, are social and live in colonies. The nest is a series of cells shaped like an inverted cone made from saliva mixed with wood fragments. When it dries the mixture is quite paper-like, and gives these wasps their name. A lone female starts nest construction and lays eggs into the first cells. When they hatch she feeds the larvae on partially chewed-up caterpillars. These larvae grow into female wasps that help with nest construction and lay their own eggs. They may compete to become the dominant egg-layer of the colony by eating each other's eggs. In the autumn, unfertilised eggs hatch into male wasps that die soon after mating with females, which fly off to start new nests.
Distribution: Throughout Australia.
Habitat: Urban areas, forests and woodlands, heath.
Size: Up to 2.2 cm.
Paper wasps can deliver painful stings, but are not as aggressive as European Wasps. They normally only attack humans if their nest is disturbed. An ice pack may be used to relieve the pain of the sting. If there is evidence of an allergic reaction, medical attention should be sought.