You may think the words ‘fun’ and ‘wasp’s nest’ should never go together, but that’s exactly how we’d describe biology student Mattia Menchetti’s collaboration with a swarm of wasps. As part of an experiment, Menchetti gave his captive colony of European paper wasps different colored construction paper to build their nest. The busy insects mixed the colorful paper with their saliva to construct an elaborate rainbow creation.
The European paper wasps’ colorful nest features open combs with cells for raising their brood and is impressively durable thanks to their saliva, which makes the nest water-resistant, and other secretions that repel ants. Menchetti patiently watched over the wasps as they built their nest and provided different colored paper as the social insects steadily completed each row of combs. The wasps chewed the wood into a pulpy substance and used their saliva to bind the fibers.
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen the effects of artificial dyes on insects. In 2012, beekeepers in Northeastern France were shocked to find their apiaries full of green and blue honey. As it was later discovered, the honeybees had collected blue and green debris from the waste of colorful M&M shells at the local biogas plant.
Images via Mattia Menchetti