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Paper Wasps in Captivity

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Posted by: Chuck_GH at Sat Sep 19 11:12:40 2015  [ Report Abuse ] [ Email Message ] [ Show All Posts by Chuck_GH ]  
   

Hello everyone!
So recently I've been working on a little project that I wanted to share with fellow insect lovers. So from what I an find online, there isn't much information on this subject, so i figure I would share what I have learned and what I am doing for those who may be interested in the future.


BACKSTORY:
Let me begin by explaining how I came up with this project. I was sitting at home, trying to think of a new project when I came across ant collection and formicarium making. for those who may not know, a formincarium is pretty much an anthill for adults. I thought to myself that making a formicarium could be really fun and educational. So I started researching how I could acquire a colony and sustain it. It was then that I discovered that the only way I could establish my own colony was to find a queen from the wild... that was going to be difficult.

But then fate happened! I returned to my home and looked above my door to notice a small hive being built by four Polistes fuscatus or Northern Paper Wasps. My roommate informed me that he was going to take care of the hive and find a way to safely destroy. As you can imagine it was at this point that I had a wonderful and stupid idea... capture the hive and the wasps watching over it.



METHOD:
Acquiring the hive was surprisingly easy. I was able to calmly place an old meal worm container over the hive. With all of the wasps safely contained in the container, i gentle peeled the back of the tiny hive away from the siding of the house. Once I felt it drop and slide to the bottom of the contained, I capped the container and begun the more difficult process.

I needed to separate the wasps from the hive in order to easily place the hive into my terrarium I had set up and waiting. If anyone knows the behavior of wasps, their first priority is to protect the hive. This means that a few will stay at the hive while another few go and sting the attacker directly. I knew what I needed to do was get all of the wasps away from the hive that was I could pull the hive out of the bottom of the container. To this I had to shake the container gently to avoid damaging the hive, but enough to make the wasps want to really attack me. This method was successful and i was able to slip the hive out.

I attached the hive to a piece of cardboard that I then attached to the side of the terrarium. I made my own lid for the terrarium out of cardboard wrapped in duck-tape and cheese clothe. This allowed much better containment and ventilation than the previous lid. It also allowed me to open the terrarium by sliding the lid open. This allowed me to open the lid just enough to allow the wasps to move straight from the container to the terrarium without them being able to escape. And with that, I had just successfully captured an entire small hive of wasps without getting stung.



HUSBANDRY:
Wasps once contained are actually relatively easy to care for. Their diet isn't too complex and if the tank is set up properly then there isn't too much maintenance needed. The less time you have to open up your wasp terrarium the better.

lets start by talking about their home. Wasps need to be able to fly as they naturally would in the wild. All you need in the terrarium is a substrate covering the bottom of the tank. the wasps are capable of climbing up glass and hanging onto the bottom of the lid. The more open the tank is, the more room they will have to fly and the happier your wasps will be.

Now a very important part of keeping any animal is feeding. In the wild, Wasps feed on the nectar of flowers and the occasional fruit. in captivity, we simulate with by create a nectar substitute. Now I tested commercial hummingbird nectar mix and didn't find any of the wasps interested in it. What I use is a sugar water mixture. I make my water really strong at about 1 part water 1 part sugar. This mixture is made and then allowed to cool to room temperature. Once the nectar is ready, I place it into a water bowl that I tried to make kind of like a flower.

When I first offered my wasps the sugar water, they refused to drink it because it was in a clear bowl. So I used the top of a green 2 liter soda bottle, attached a cardboard tub to the bottom to keep it upright, and then wrapped the edges of the bowl in red ducktape. I scratched up the tape for easier gripping and a wad of cotton into the water mixture. With this pseudo-flower created, the wasps were happy to drink from it.

We also have to make sure the wasps have what they need for their hive. In most of the cells, the queen of the hive lays an egg which soon hatches into a pupa. These young wasps don't drink the nectar the adults do. Instead they need to be fed soft-bodied insects. In the wild, wasps find caterpillars, bring them back to the hive, and feed chunks to each of the pupa. We can easily simulate this in captivity by collecting caterpillars from outside and dropping them into the tank. What I have found to be easier though more costly is to purchase wax worms from any pet store. These are actually the caterpillars of moths and my wasps happily devour them without hesitation.

Another important part of hive maintenance is allow the wasp's to keep making their hive bigger and better. they do this by chewing up bits of plant matter and forming it into a paste that they had to the hive. This paste is very similar to paper mache and its this hive building trait that gives the paper wasps their name. What I like to do is offer the wasps a variety of vegetation like leaves, grass, flowers, etc. I like to give them multiple choices as to what to use for their hive. I haven't noticed yet if they have a preference or not.

There isn't much more needed to be done with them in terms of husbandry. Each morning when I wake up a gently mist one side of the terrarium. The wasp's don't seem to need it, but it help keeps the dirt I used as a substrate from becoming dry and dusty. The room my terrarium is in doesn't get too much natural sunlight, so I have a lamp on a timer with a LED bulb. This allows them to easily go through a proper day/nigh cycle keeping them happy. Having the lamp also allows you to be able to see the wasps better.


RESULTS:
So I've been keeping my hive like this for a little over a month and it has been doing wonderfully. I started out with only 4 wasps, 3 drones and 1 fertile queen. As of writing this, I have about fifteen wasp's. There are at least 3 males, one or two queens, and the rest are all drones. I've been noticing that the hive is getting bigger in size with each passing day. All of the wasps are regularly active and seem rather happy.


WHAT I WOULD DO DIFFERENTLY:
I have noticed that a bulk of the wasps like to hang out at the top of the terrarium, walking around on the lid. This leads to some difficult times when it comes time for me to changing their nectar, add wax-worms, and hive material. If I were able to do it again, I would put the terrarium on its side that way the lid is on one side. this would make it so much easier to pull things and it would decease the chances of a wasp flying out.

Start out with a much larger tank. With the rate my hive is increasing in wasp population, I'm going to need to move them into a bigger terrarium soon. As of right now they are in a 10 gallon aquarium. Moving 15 wasps and their hive into another tank is flat-out impossible unless I were to figure out a way to do it outside without loosing wasps and with a bee keeping suit. If I were to startall over again, I would probably start with a 30 gallon tank.


QUESTIONS?:
So like I said before this has been a learning process and I've had very little to go one with all of this. The next thing im going to be working on is seeing if the wasp's will all naturally start to try to over winter despite being kept in a warm home or whether they will continue to live ass if it is still spring or winter. That's the case, the fertile mater queens should start to find places in the tank to over winter, while the rest of the hive starts to die. However in the wild they die from starvation and cold. bu what happens if they are given foo regularly and kept warm? We shall find out.

Let me know what you think. Do you think i'm crazy or insane? Go ahead and voice or opinion. If you have any ideas or comments about my project I was to hear them. And if you are looking to do something similar to this, contact me. I would love to talk to more wasp enthusiasts. There's not to many of us out there. (not that i blame everyone for hating them) I would be really interested if there are others out there doing this. From my search only, I could find only one other guys keep an entire hive of wasps.

Anyways, there's my little wasp project. Let me know what you think. There is a link to pictures below. Thanks for reading!

pics of my hive


   

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