How long does an engineer train? How about an Architect? There are many cowboy builders out there with little or no training and don’t they just make a mess.
There is an inch long, a little engineer that would fit on your thumb has no degree, has never been to school but the building work they produce, the relative strength of their structures and the intricacy of the design is something that engineers all over the world admire.
In fact, the paper wasps have been described as master engineers.
When mixed with their sticky, high protein saliva they produce a water-resistant pulp from which they design a grey or brown paper nest. The properties in the saliva once dried enable the paper nest to generate and absorb heat for perfect climate control. They also secrete an ant repellent to keep away invaders and protect their babies.
From a construction point of view these nests are a design marvel. The cells are hexagonal, one of the most economical of shapes, also ultra-lightweight, flexible, biodegradable and very strong.
Most paper wasps produce an umbrella shaped open comb design for rearing their young, the nest will likely hang in a tree secured with a ‘Petiole’ which is a stalk that anchors the nest, very firmly. Sometimes they can be found under the eaves of a house, in the end of a pipe and even on a clothes line.
Unlike our building methods, during construction and habitation the careful little builders do no harm to the environment; produce no toxic waste to pollute air, water or land, do not disturb the neighbours with noisy construction first thing in the morning and they do not need building inspectors to ensure quality construction methods.
In our schools and universities researchers, designers, chemists, architects and the like, study the construction of this untrained little insect to try to design our building materials that are lightweight, strong flexible and biodegradable.
Kevin Millar BSc (Hons) MCIOB a building surveyor with Hawthorn Estates Ltd, commented ‘This insect, with a brain the size of two grains of sand, with no education, with no degree and zero qualifications, knows instinctively how to build in a way from which we ‘educated’ people desire to learn. How is that for irony?’