There aren’t that many dangerous insects compared with the thousands of harmless and useful ones but among those which are aggressive are Australia’s native paper wasps.
There are two kinds of paper wasp, both being fairly common in most parts of Australia. The wasps which build a rather long narrow nest hanging in a tree or shrub are Rhopalidia paper wasps.
The second kind of paper wasps, called Polistes, make a nest the shape of an inverted wine glass or an upside-down crumpet. Polistes build their nests under eaves and around windows. If the nest is outside a closed or screened window, it’s a good safe way to watch the wasps going about their daily lives, as these wasps can sting if disturbed.
Paper wasps were the world’s very first paper makers. Female paper wasps scrape dead sticks to gather woody fibres to make the nest. The female usually builds a few cells from these woody fibres then fills them with her eggs. As the larvae hatch they are fed on bits of chewed-up caterpillar. When adults these begin feeding the next batch of babies while the females build more cells and lay more eggs.
Paper wasps attack if they feel their nests are threatened. Unfortunately, just brushing against the nest may incite them to give you quite a nasty sting.
However, the great majority of our native wasp species don’t live in such colonies being solitary, nesting in the ground or in some crack or crevice, and they don’t attack humans. They may be seen feeding at flowers as they’re useful pollinators.
If the nest is safely out of reach leave it and watch the wasps at their work. They have fascinating lives and when it comes to killing caterpillars, wasps must be safer than using poisonous chemicals.