Gigantic Wasp Nests

Huge Wasp Nest at Oxford University Museum of Natural HistoryThis time last year our technicians were busy treating wasp nests. The cool weather and the rain has stifled wasp nest building activities – wasps don’t like to fly in rain and keep warm by huddling together in their nests. Not that I am asking to be infested like the owners of Cokethorpe Park, Oxon who cultivated this magnificent nest pictured right which is on display at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History.

The nest dates back to 1857 when a social wasp nest of five centimeters in diameter was discovered underground in the gardens of Cokethorpe Park. It was dug up and suspended above a window on the ground floor for observation (this was before television was invented). The wasps were supplied with a daily allowance of one pound of sugar and a pint of beer. Two other paper wasp nests were placed in another room on the first floor without the regular rationing, and thus the rather risky business of a wasp building competition inside a (very large and stately) home commenced.

Towards the end of August the occupants of the two nests on the upper floors learned of the generous provisions the workers of the ground floor nest were enjoying and decided to leave their current papery homes and move into the nest on the lower floor. The wasps (being sociable sorts) were accepted into the nest and thus fortified with beer and sugar contributed to the gigantic proportions.

You may marvel at its size but it’s not larger than a record-breaking nest discovered in Somerset last year which measured 1.4 by 1.8 meters.

  1. Barbara Wilde

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