I recently undertook an expedition to the far reaches of the loft. Amongst the wondrous things to be seen up there are a couple of wasp nests in various stages. A wasp nest starts life in spring when the queen finds a suitable spot and creates a stalk (called a petiole) with a single hexagonal cell hanging from it. She will then build more cells around that and lay eggs in them.
These will then develop into worker wasps who continue to build the nest, while the queen dedicates herself to laying more eggs in it. The nest itself is made from strips of wood that the wasps tear off from your fence panels or garden furniture, mixed with saliva and wax. It truly is a thing of great beauty.
Wasps regulate the temperature of the nest with water and by fanning it with their wings. The queen will now lay eggs that eventually hatch into more queens and male drones, once they have gone through the larval stage and pupated. These will leave the nest to mate. The drones will die and the fertilised queens will find somewhere to hibernate over winter, before finding a new nest site in the spring. The worker wasps and the old queen left in the nest will starve to death.
See also: Wasps – Free e-book