Tuesday 17 January 2012

Median Wasp Nest

Back in the summer of 2008 I found a small wasp nest in a Flowering Redcurrant bush in my garden. It was about the size of a small football and turned out to be a Median Wasp nest. While many people might be slightly alarmed at the prospect of having an active wasp nest in their garden, I was thinking more in terms of the photo opportunities it would provide! I was also assured that Median Wasp nests tend to be smaller and to hold far fewer wasps than Common Wasp nests. The kids were therefore instructed to steer well clear of the nest and I got to work observing and photographing it over the space of several weeks.

The construction of the nest was probably the most interesting stage to observe. Small teams of wasps would land on the fences in my garden (for some reason they tended to favour certain patches of fence) and they would scratch away at the wood. The act of scratching was audible from some distance away and also left lots of thin lines scratched into the fence which are still there several years on. The wasps would then fly back to the paper-like nest and add the chewed wood pulp to the outer layer of the nest.

In order to photograph this activity I decided that I wanted to use my MP-E 65mm macro lens in order to get sufficient magnification. The downside of this plan was that this lens has a maximum working distance of only a few centimetres meaning I had to get very close to the nest. Every now and again I would get slightly too close and would brush the nest with my flash diffuser. This would result in numerous wasps exiting the nest en masse in order to see off the perceived threat. It would also result in me moving in the general direction of away, quite rapidly :-)


A Median Wasp exiting the nest

Nest building: in the image below you can see the recently chewed wood pulp that has been added to the nest

The image below shows what happened if I accidentally knocked the nest. Bear in mind my face was just a matter of centimetres from the wasps...!


  1. An excellent series of shots, Matt. But when it comes to wasps, rather you than me :)

  2. Great stuff as ever Matt. To think some people think us wildlife photographers are mad. I cant think why....

  3. cheers Neil. This probably wasn't the most sensible photo shoot I've ever done! :-)

  4. WOW - outstanding bravery and images Matt. I am happy photographing bees and even venomous snakes from close range, but for some reason I have a problem with wasps.

  5. Just one question out of curiosity.....can you use flash on a wasp nest?? Does it spook them or do they tolerate it.

    1. I've never found that wasps react to flash at all, like the vast majority of insects in fact.