THE communities of the paper wasp, like those of other social inseets of the family, consist of three kinds of individuals—males, females and workers. The colonies only exist for a single season, the males and workers dying in the fall. The females or queens hibernate and each starts a new community in the spring. The queen is the largest in the colony and her one duty, after the first few weeks of spring, is egg laying. The males or drones are created for the one purpose of fertilizing the eggs of the queen and after performing this duty they are frequently killed and thrown from the nest by the workers. These so-called workers are in reality undeveloped females who are unable to reproduce in a beneficial way, as their eggs invariably produce drones. Thus they are unable to assist in increasing the numbers of working illdividuals in the colony and the heavier work must therefore fall upon these otherwise useless members. Let us start with the queen mother, the only survivor of last year's colony who has sa fely passed through the winter in an impregnated and torpid condition and who must now hy the foundations of another great insect city. When in the spring she lays the first foundations of her future empire, she has not a single worker at her disposal, and with her own hands and teeth she must hollow ' out a tiny cave wwrein to lay the corner stone of her future metropolis. She must herself huild the [ll'st combs ane! produce from het own h(y t lwir first inhabitants, which in their infant state she Illus feed and (,Iucate before they can assist her in the great design. 1t length she receives the reward for her pers('vcruncc and hhor, and from heing it solitary nnconncded individual. in the SUlllIn is enabled to l'ival the quccn who gave her birth, in the number of her childrcn ;;!I suhiects and in thc empire of which they are inhahitan ts. Even at this tile, when she has so numerous an a,'IY of co-adjutresses, the industry of this creature does not cease, hut she continu,'s to sct an example of diligence to the rest of the eolony. If in any way the queen mother perishes before the other females are hatched, the workers lose their instincts, cease their labors and die. The number of females in a wasp colony is very considerable. They are hatched about the lattet' part of July or during the frst part of August, at the same time and in about the same numbers as the males. In September and October they fly from the nest and after mating the males live but a short time. Of all the females, few survive the winter to start the new empires when the vernal sun brings the insect world to life again. To the workers falls the entire care of the young and other members of the colony. They must not only supply the food, which consists of honey and chewed up insects, hut they must also protect the nest from outside in·-trudelS. These poor “Neuters” must also he ready and willing at any time to do construction work upon the rapidly growing nest. Almost claily there are new cells to be built, walls to he strengthened, openings to be closed and all manner of things which only a worker can do. Of all these operttions, no othel' is so interesting as the proc&«s hy whljh th” wasp's paper is made. It is, of efurse, mal)ufactlli't>d frol wood pulp which is scraped by the wotket· from old boards, fence rails and oth"r un-painted IUlllber which has been \eIl weathered for two or t h re e yean;. These tiny particles of wood fber arc mixed by the wasp with a glutinous substance of some sort which is apparently spit up by the worker herself. Now she rolls the whole mass between her fore feet until a small gray pellet has been formed, and with this she fies to the nest. The pellet is then dropped in the proper place and left until the edge of it adheres to the edge of the cell next to which the new one is to be constructed. When this has been accomplished, the insed draws the pulp from a ball or pellet into a long thin line to the opposite side of the nest From here she gocs back to the start, and places her tong-like . a ws over the paper thread, closes them, and simply walks backward away from the point of contact, and thus f.attening it into a long gray ribbon which is easily shaped into a low hexagonal cell. In this manner several layers of paper ribbon are applied, each layer above the other, until the cell is of the proper depth. It is then ready for the delicate white egg which the queen lays almost at its very bottom. The egg is fastened to the paper wall by the same glutinous substance which holds tbe nest together, and it is almost impossible to relllove it without leaving a portion of its tender shell adhering to the wall within the cell. In the course of a few cays the eggs hatch out into soft footles tna·ts, and it is at this period of their lives that they ate subje(t to the attacks of a very curious beetle parasite called the Xenos. The young of this insect is I tiny actile creature which burrows into the body of the young wasp. There it lives feeding upon the body of its host during its hypermetamorphosis. If it is to be a male, it transforms into a chrysalis and soon after this hatches out from the body of the young wasp to live its short adult life, which lasts fifteen minutes to three days. If a female it never turns into a chrysalis, but when the maggot host itself changes into one, the apparently immature Xenos pushes one end of its body out between two of the host's abdominal segments, and there, unlike the female of any other insect family, gives birth alive to a great many tiny beetles in the earliest and most undeveloped stage 'of their lives. Owing to the position of the comb, when the young wasp hatches it is suspended head downward in the cell. By means of a glutinous substance (probably the same as the older wasps possess) the larva, as the young one is called, manages to hold itself in place until its head grows large enough to fill the entire open end. \hen the larva becomes full grown it spins a cocoon of whitish silk, the bottom of which serves as a cap stone to the cell. In this position the young wasp transforms into a pupa or chrysalis and it is then helpless until the time when it issues as a perfect insect. After this event the cell is cleaned out by the workers and used over again by the queen. The whole period required for the transformation, from the time when the egg is laid until the full grown wasp issues from its ('ocoon, is about four weeks; thus it will be seen that the same cells may be used many tilms during a single season. The last brood of the yectr consists mostly of queens and drones and after these have been hatched the workers of the colony ' soon die. The inside of the cells may then be found to contain curious brownish skins, cast .off by the chrysalis and which the workers did not have time to remove befol'e the cold weather alTived. Unlike the large globular nests of the hornets, those of the paper wasps are simply a mass of uncovered cells, ranging in numbers from ffty to five hundred. These are suspended by a single central stem from the under sides of large overhanging stones or from beams in old barns and sheds. These insects are undoubtedly beneficial from the fact that they have been known to prey upon the destructive cabbage caterpillar in the vicinity of \ashington and also in Connecticut. Howard in his Insect Book describes their actions as follows: “The a plant and then alight and walk about it, but finding nothing, would continue to the next plant and sO on to the next. In the suuny center part of the field the cabbage caterpillars were exterminated, but in the shady portions next to a patch of woods, they were present in great numbers. \asps do not see small objects clearly. They find their prey flure by sense of touch than by sense of sight, and as they prefer the sunshine they unconsciously ignored the abundant caterpillars in the shade." Kirbv has lett us the following extraordinary account of the manner in which the workers care for the young and helpless members of the community. These observations apply to the common yellow jacket or hornet, but many of the state ments hold true in the case of the paper wasps, although I have Bot as yet heen able to verity them all. “The workers al'e t h e most numerous, and to us the only troublesome part of the colony, upon whom devolves the main business of the nest. In the summer and autumnal months, they go forth by myriads into the neighboring country to collect provisions; and on their return to the common den, after reserving a sufficiency for the nutriment of the young brood, they divide the spoil with great impartiality; part being given to the females, part to the males and part to those workers that have been engaged in extending and fortifying the community. This division is voluntarily made without the slightest symptom of compulsion. Several wasps assemble round each of the returning workers and receive their respective portions. It is curious and interesting to observe their motions upon this occasion. As soon as a wasp that has been filling itself witll t ( e juiee of fruits, arrives at the nest, it perches upon the tap, and upon disgorging a drop of its saccharine fluid, is attended sometimes by' two at once, who share tile treasure. Tile first drop being tllus distributed, a second and sometimes a third is produced, which falls to the lot of the others. "Wasps do not as a rule store up honey, but it is found in tile cells of some European species as well as in those of America. "Another principal employment of the workers is enlarging and repairing the nest. They work with great celerity, and though a large number are occupied at the same time, there is not the slightest confusion, Each individual has its POI tion of work assigned to it, extending from an inch to an inch and a half, and is furnished with a ball of ligneous fiber scraped by its powerful jaws from posts, rails and the like, The workers also clean the cells and prepare them to receive another egg, after the first has' j passed Ihrough all the stages of its life J and is now a perfect insect working with t he rest. “ There is good reason for thinking that wasps have sentinels placed at the entranees of their nests, which, if you can seize and destroy, the remainder will not attack you. This has been confirmed by the author and many other entomologists. If a nest of wasps be approached without ' alarming the inhabitants, arid all communication be suddenly cut off between those out of the nest and those within it, no provocation will induce the former to defend it for themselves, but if one escapes from within, it comes with a very different temper and appears commissioned to avenge public wrOngs. In fact, very few incoming bees or wasps will attack the intruder. Perhaps it is because the insect who is returning to the nest sees from afar all that is going on about its home, while the nne coming from inside the nest is confronted suddenly by an unusual form when it reaches the usual point of exit. It becomes alarmed, not only for itself, but for the safety of its colony. What follows is only too well known to the student cf social insects! When the workers make their rush they are prepared to sacrifice their lives in the execution of their orders. The first cold weather, after the queens have entered their winter quarters, produces an 'efect upon them similar to that which is produced upon the wood. chuck and other animals subject to torPOl. At first a partial benumbment takes place, but the insect if touched is still capable of moving its organs. As the cold increases all the animal functions | cease. The insect breathes no longer and has no need of a supply of air; its nutritive secretions cease, no more food is required, and it has all the external symptoms of death. Thus we will leave the few survivors of a once great insect empire, perhaps huddled behind the picture molding in our bedroom, insignificant now to be sure, but planning, nevertheless, in their insect minds every cell, every gallery, and every passage which is to be built when the new colonies are founded in the first warm days of April.
This article was originally published with the title "The Original Paper Makers"