I was lying on the jungle floor of a Malaysian rainforest with a wasp nest dangling 10cm from my nose. I had painted each wasp with a few coloured spots so that I could tell one from another.
I’d been watching these wasps for several weeks: I saw them being born, I saw them fight for a place in society, I saw some rise to motherhood as queen, and others fall to a life of hard labour as workers. I was here to study the unfolding of social behaviour in the insects best suited to show us – the hover wasps. This was probably the moment I got over my long-held horror of small stinging and biting insects.
Hover wasps live in very small societies of around five to 10 individuals. They don’t chase you and they can barely sting. This makes them a good “entry-level” wasp. (Perhaps you’re tempted?)
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