Landcare Research - Manaaki Whenua

Landcare-Research -Manaaki Whenua

Production of drones and queens

In late summer and autumn the wasp nest starts to produce fertile wasps, called 'gynes'. The males (drones) usually hatch from worker cells, and they appear about 2 weeks before the queens. Drones are fertile males that are only present in late summer or autumn.

The queens are produced in specially enlarged cells, in comb near the bottom of the nest and an average wasp nest produces between 1000 and 2000 queens a season. The queens may remain in the nest while they build up fat for winter. The drones remain in the nest until the queens force them out. From then on they stay away from the nest and feed while they wait for an opportunity to mate with the queens.

Drones that have left the nest tend to gather around trees or prominent objects on high ground. They fly continuously back and forth around such objects, and rush in to mate with any queen that flies into the mating swarm. The male's sperm is stored by the queen within a small sac (called a spermatheca) in her reproductive tract until she needs it to fertilise eggs for a new nest in the spring.