The colony is initiated by a single queen that survived the winter.
The queen is very large and predominately orange, differing from the worker and
male wasps in a colony. After feeding on nectar and arthropods in early spring,
the queen’s ovaries develop and she seeks a nesting site. There she constructs
a nest of 20 to 45 cells and produces eggs that hatch into larvae. The queen
feeds these larvae nectar and arthropod prey and in about 30 days the first
worker wasps emerge from the pupal stage. After the number of worker wasps
increase, the queen no longer leaves the nest. Colonies can contain up to 4,000
workers. Late in the summer, workers construct larger reproductive cells in which
male and female wasps are produced. After they emerge, they leave the nest, mate.
Thereafter, queens seek hibernation sites while males swarm in high numbers over
hilltops and vegetation.
HABITAT, FOOD SOURCE(S), DAMAGE:
Mouthparts are for chewing. Colonies, constructed out of chewed vegetable fiber
that forms paper carton, occur in disturbed habitats such as yards and roadsides.
Nests are most often underground, but occasionally are found in wall voids and
indoors. In Texas, some colonies can survive for several years and continue to
grow. Colonies in Texas and other southern states have been reported that are 6
ft across. In exposed and underground sites, nests are spherical and consists of
a number of round combs, attached one below another, and surrounded by a
many-layered outer cover. Worker wasps leave the nest and seek protein sources
such as live insects and animal carcasses, foraging around picnic tables, garbage
cans and other locations. They do not make nor store honey.
Venomous, stinging social insect, that is abundant in urban areas; when nests are
disturbed, defending worker wasps can inflict multiple stings; foraging worker
wasps may be a nuisance at picnics and other outdoor events.