Social Wasps 2, 1, 3, 4

Wasp Adults

Adult wasps are vegetarian, eating any sugary liquid, but mainly sugary liquid exuded from the grubs and nectar from flowers. Vespula vulgaris workers (females) are 11 - 44 mm long, and the males are 13 - 17 mm long. In the U. K. the first adult workers emerge around the end of May.

The lifecycle is similar to that of bumblebees, and the queen will have mated the previous summer/autumn. It takes 3 - 4 weeks from the time the egg is laid to the hatching of the adult wasp.

Below a queen of Vespula vulgaris. The photograph below shows the powerful jaws needed to scrape bits of wood off fences etc. then chew them into a pulp for nest construction.

Vespula vulgaris queen, queen wasp head close up

Here is a short video of a worker scraping a piece of wood off to chew up and take back to add to the nest.

Below you can see the hind leg of a social wasp. Note that it has no pollen basket as would be found in bumblebees and honeybees, as pollen is not an important item in the diet of either adults or grubs.

wasp hind leg, a diagram showing the parts of the leg

Hibernating queen wasp

Below you can see a hibernating queen wasp. Note that her wings are folded and held under her legs, probably to protect them.

Queen wasp hibernating

She is attached to the underside of a log in a log store. The logs were stored outside, and the temperature over the winter months went below minus 17C!

Wasp flight speed

Wasp flight speed has been recorded as 2.5 metres per second, and 250 wing beats per second. Compare this with other insects. They are expert fliers and can fly up, down, forwards and backwards.

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