A nest begins
- The queen wasp awakes from hibernation in the spring. After a short period of feeding and exploring, she begins to build a nest in a dark and dry place. She usually chooses a warm spot, often in a bank with a sunny aspect, but also in attics, house roofs, eaves, or walls, and can fly up to 70 km in search of the perfect nest site.
- She builds a honeycomb-like cell structure out of wood fibre. The wood fibre is chewed and glued together with wasp saliva to form a sort of paper mâché material.
- In each cell of the new nest, the queen then lays a single egg, which hatches into a larva in 5‒8 days. The queen gathers sugary substances and catches other insects (for protein) to feed the larvae. After five moults over about 15 days each larva spins a silken cap over the cell and pupates. Pupation takes 8-18 days before an adult worker wasp emerges. In total it takes approximately 28-48 days from egg to adult, although the length of time spent in each stage is determined by environmental conditions.
Sometimes another queen tries to steal the nest instead of working to make her own. There are many prolonged fights between queens for the ownership of nests. This is one of the reasons why a large proportion of founding nests (where the queen is still working alone) fail to become established. Also, cold, wet springs reduce the number of nest which establish. Once the queen has five to seven worker wasps to help her, she stays in the nest and lays eggs for the rest of her life. The nest then grows rapidly, and the nest is likely to survive for several months.