Stunning snaps from across the fields of history, nature or science
This is a social wasp belonging to the genus Ropalidia, which is commonly found across southeast Asia. Most insects belonging to this genus produce nests by swarming, in a manner similar to honeybees – an unusual behaviour for wasps. However, in this particular species, a single mated female starts a nest in much the same way that wasps in the UK do.
“In this photo, the female has constructed a paper nest from wood fibres and water – natural papier maché – and in the cells you can see developing larvae. These will turn into adult females that look exactly like their mother queen, but instead of laying eggs, they will become workers, expanding and defending the nest and tending to the eggs and larvae,” said entomologist and BBC presenter Adam Hart. “She has removed water from the open nest using her mouth. Wasps, like their relatives the bees and ants, are scrupulous in keeping conditions in their nests just right for rearing the young.”
Unlike worker wasps in the UK, which remain more or less sterile throughout their lives, Ropalidia workers have the capacity to become breeding females that can replace the mother queen if she is lost.