A quantitative study of the physical properties of nest paper in three species of Vespine wasps (Hymenoptera, Vespidae)
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Between and within species differences in the properties of nest paper were studied in three species of social wasp (Vespinae). These are discussed in relation to the function and design of comb and envelope and to the requirements placed on the material by differences in nesting habit. Comb paper was thinner than envelope paper in all three species, and denser than envelope paper in D. sylvestris and D. norwegica. Differences were also found in the fibres from which comb and envelope paper were composed. Comb fibres were significantly shorter than envelope fibres in all three species but of the same width. The difference in observed fibre length could result from either the selection of fibres from different sources or from differences in their processing. These two alternative explanations were examined further in D. sylvestris and D. norwegica. There was some evidence that differences observed in comb and envelope fibres were due to their selection from different pulp sources. No evidence was found that comb fibres were shorter as a result of processing in either D. sylvestris or D. norwegica. Several differences were found between species in the properties of comb and envelope paper. Nest paper of D. sylvestris and D. norwegica was significantly thicker and stronger than that of V. vulgaris. Comb paper of D. sylvestris and D. norwegica was also denser than that of V. vulgaris. Nest paper was thicker in D. norwegica than in D. sylvestris but had the same tensile strength. There were also differences in the fibres from which nest paper was composed. Dolichovespula sylvestris and D. norwegica paper had longer, narrower fibres than that of V. vulgaris.
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