Australia has around 35 species of native paper wasps and the females hibernate until spring when they emerge and start building their nest. The nest is constructed from timber scrapings mixed with saliva, and consists of many hexagonal cells. In true democratic fashion, the first female to start building becomes the queen and only she lays the eggs which are all female, as is the entire colony. The wasps, including the queen, are all workers with various jobs including nest-building, food-gathering and feeding the newly hatched larvae. (Masticated caterpillar and other insects are popular items on the menu.) When the larvae pupate, the cell is sealed shut until the adult wasp emerges and the cycle continues.
The sight of a paper wasp's nest might fill you with dread, but if they're somewhere where they're not likely to be disturbed, the activities of these wasps is fascinating. This nest is one of three or four underneath the eaves outside my bathroom window and I periodically check the flyscreen to make sure there aren't any holes! Paper Wasps are aggressive when defending their nests and have a nasty sting, but they're important pollinators of many plants.