The copper dome at the top of the Lookout is a perfect insulator for the chilly days ahead. The fall is an important time for the Paper wasp’s life cycle. Each colony is started in the spring by a fertilized female who spent her winter staying warm under tree bark. There is only one egg-laying queen to a nest. The colony is comprised of female worker bees, which collect food, care for the young, construct and defend the nest. In the fall, the colony begins to produce males and special reproductive females. The reproductive females will mate with the males, leave the nest in search of a place to spend the winter and will emerge in the spring to become next year’s queens. The rest of the colony will slowly die off and the nest will become vacant.
But for now, we must learn to live in harmony.
Paper wasp nests, which they build from plant material (mostly wood) and saliva, look and feel like paper. The tan, upside down umbrella-shaped nest, features visible hexagonal cells making it easy to identify. Paper wasps do not reuse nests the next year. The wasps themselves look similar to yellow jackets. They are black or brown, with yellowish markings, and they fly with their legs dangling.
Paper wasps building a nest (http://abcwildlife.com/paper-wasp-nest-removal)
Some may not find these critters favorable, but they play many important roles in the natural world. Paper wasps are efficient predators, mostly of caterpillars. Caterpillars can be injurious to crops, landscaping and gardens, making wasps beneficial to humans. Adult wasps carry caterpillars back to the nest and feed them to the developing larvae. Adults feed mainly on nectar, making them efficient pollinators. Paper wasps also serve as food for many other animals such as birds, reptiles, other predatory insects and some mammals.
So, if you visit Brown-Forman Silo Center in the weeks ahead, you may find the Silo Lookout closed. If it’s open, please be mindful of our friends. Paper wasps are relatively nonaggressive, unless they feel their nest is threatened. Therefore, keeping a safe distance is the best way to avoid a painful sting.