fragments of

Closer Look

Fragments of "wasp-paper" from a hornet nest

Modern - collected May 23, 2009
Eastern United States of America

Fragment Dimensions:

  (a) 6.0 cm wide x  3.5 cm high  (b) 6.5 cm wide x  2.0 cm high
  (c) 7.8 cm wide x  3.4 cm high  (c) 6.5 cm wide x  3.4 cm high

     Four non-joining fragments of "wasp-paper" from a hornet nest.
     The fragments are from the outer covering of a nest.
     Fragments are slightly convex.
     The "wasp-paper" is a coarse porous paper that is somewhat 
     stiff and fiberous.   
     The fragments show curved banding patterns in grey, brown, 
     white, tan and orange-brown.  Each band is about 0.03 cm 
     wide and of varying length. 


         Hornets are large wasp-like inscets of the genus Vespa.
     They are known for their distinctive paper nests. 

          A hornet nest is typically an oval ball-shaped structure 
     the hornet colony builds to protect it from the elements.  It is
     often constructed hanging from a tree branch.  It also provides 
     a secure location for raising offspring. 

          The nest is constructed by worker hornets out of paper-like
     material made from chewed wood fibers mixed with saliva. They 
     spread the pulp in thin strips/bands with their mandibles
     (mouth-parts)and legs and allow them to dry.  The process is 
     repeated till the section is completed.  The paper is strong 
     and durable enough for it to endure the elements for several
     months.  The nest is composed of 3 or 4 tiers of open-celled 
     brood combs within a thick, multilayered outer shell.  There 
     is typically a single opening at the bottom. This opening 
     allows the hornets to enter and exit the nest. 

          The fragments display distinctive colored banding paterns. 
     The banding colors are due to the use of vaious wood or other 
     plant sources used for constructing the paper by the hornets.
     The paper is thick, stiff, porous and somewhat fiberous. The 
     high wood content in the paper makes it acidic and over time 
     it becomes somewhat brittle (similar to news print pulp paper).

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