An experiment by biology student Mattia Menchetti led to some beautiful results. The experiment used the services of a colony of European paper wasps. The goal of the experiment was to see what happened when you gave paper wasps some colored construction paper, which Menchetti did. Here are the results.
The European Paper Wasps
One of the most common species of wasps, the European paper wasp lives across southern Europe and North Africa. In addition, the wasp can be found in parts of Asia, including China. Global climate change has also contributed to the expansion of their domain to Australia, South Africa and both North and South America in more recent times.
How Wasps Build Nests
Wasps build nests by turning wood fibers into a soft paper pulp which they then form into the hexagonal structure of the finished nest. In the case of the construction paper used in the experiment, the wasps broke down the paper into the same sort of soft paper, which in turn gave the resulting nest of the experiment its colored hue.
The Building of the Nest Begins
To begin, the wasps start by making a smaller nest which hangs down from the surface it is attached to. More than likely, the wasps don’t pick and choose the color of the construction paper that they use. This gives the nest its multi-colored appearance. It is also within the hexagonal chambers near the center of the nest that the wasps place the larvae of their young for better protection.
Adding on More Layers
The wasps continue to add onto the nest, increasing its size. This domicile will serve as their home for the spring and summer months. In the fall and winter, workers and males die off. The mated queens though survive, hibernating during the colder months, sheltering in crevices around homes and buildings, or even underneath tree bark. With the arrival of spring, the queens exit their hidey holes and seek to build new nests.
The Nest Takes Shape
As you can see, the bigger the nest gets, the more it begins to take shape. Look at the multi-colored hue of the construction paper used in the building of the nest. It is during the building of the new nest in the spring that the larvae are placed in the paper chambers of the nest, ready to develop into adults.
The Nest is Finished
The finished nest will serve as a home for between 20 and 30 adult wasps. The queen doesn’t stop laying eggs until the late summer. When she does, the colony will die off. The queens are active from 10 to 12 months of the year, and the workers for only three to four months at most.
Another Example of a Multi-colored Wasp Nest
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Here is another example of a rainbow colored wasp nest. This just goes to show that nature will find a way, even if it means constructing a multi-colored thing of beauty. Keep in mind though, that even though the nest is pretty, the wasps inside will still fight to protect it.
Building a Nest in Action
Here is a video of a paper wasp working on a beautiful, rainbow-colored nest. Some might even call it a work of art.
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