For the past three years, members of the European Paper Wasp (Polistes dominulus) have been nesting under my balcony railing.
This genus of wasps is really special, they’re primitively eusocial, just over halfway on the evolutionary track between non-social and completely eusocial (honeybees are the classic example of a truly eusocial animal). This generally means that they exhibit eusocial behavior but also have exceptional plasticity when it comes to decision-making.
This nest is a great example of that plasticity because it has two foundresses! Generally, a single queen will start a nest and monopolize egg-laying for the rest of her life, but here two queens have decided to build a nest together and risk losing out on egg-laying opportunities in return for help with resource gathering and nest defense. These queens are pretty small, and in these wasps size almost directly correlates to ovarian development, so that might have something to do with it.
Normally I wouldn’t make such a big post, but I’m going to be spending the next four months researching the nest-defense behavior of this particular species (thanks NSERC!), and the whole thing has me very excited.