How to Take Apart a Wasp Nest (and Laser Cut It)




About: i am of few words

Hi Instructables. Long time listener, first-time caller.

This is an odd and specific instructable, one that i really hadn't planned, but thought it would be worth sharing, just because its so odd and cool.

The process is actually rather straightforward, so this may be more of a tour or demo than instructions.

From the time i took apart the nest, to the time i got access to a laser cutter was...2 years!!

I am still figuring out exactly how I am going to use the panels i got.

The wasp nest itself is paper! rather than a finished project, i will share a way to source some interesting raw materials.

Step 1: Get Your Hands on a Full, Big Wasp Nest

How do you get a full, big, empty wasp nest?

You get lucky.

I found mine in my house in central Mexico.

The hive just abandoned it.

What i saw was rare insect made paper waiting to be harvested!

You need 2 hands to do a lot of this, hence the bad photos.

To get the nest, i got a pruning saw and pressed it as close to the walls that the nest was stuck to and it cut no problem. Make sure it is empty and its not just cold out and they are all asleep inside!!

The nest is paper, really thin paper so its easy to cut, but be careful you don't want to ruin the internal structure!

Randomly searched photos are just to help illustrate.

Step 2: Work Down the Layers!

I used a box cutter and an Xacto blade.

Just start working around the edges. Its supper brittle spongy weird paper, so use both hands and be patient.

You are a giant dissecting a skyscraper. You need to cut just the walls. If you go too high you cut into the 3rd floor too low and you cut into the 2nd floor.

All nest geometry will be different, adapt as needed.

You might find something crazy in the nest... like a rock... how?

My guess is some jerk kids threw a rock at the nest, it got logged in, and the wasps worked around it.

Step 3: Have a Nice Large Cardboard Box to Store All the Pannels

you can see my layout, each consecutive layer, and the "walls" that surrounded and divided them.

Step 4: They Will Get ... Waxy?

I started to find that the deeper you go the panels get this white waxy fluff.

Just get a medium soft painting brush, and delicately sweep it off.

You may damage the hexagonal cell walls but I didn't have too much trouble.

Step 5: Settup to Laser Cut the Spoils

So, if you are like me, box up your wasp nest panels and store them for 2 years.

Think about throwing them out after 1 year, then ask yourself ... when will I ever get my hands on this kind of stuff ever again? Not to mention, it's AWESOME!

Wait another year, then, when you get access to a laser cutter bust them out.

First, etch your profile on a piece of cardboard. I went with a simple circle.

Step 6: Tape the Panel to the Cardboard

Lower the Z axis a lot.

Don't move the cardboard!

The point of this is to match the panel to the laser cutter.

align the panel with the profile you etched and use some tape to keep it in place.

The air from the laser head would be enough to blow it around.

Step 7: The Cutting

so... you don't have a 3d scanner and a laser cutter with an adaptable z-axis to do some badass 3d motion to keep the laser focused.

What I did was to keep the standard paper etching power settings, and lower the speed significantly.

Start at the lowest point, raise the z-axis and estimate the focal distance.

Get your Z probe out of the way!

Remember not to move the cardboard base, since you matched it up to the wasp pannel and the laser cutting motion.

Start cutting.

As the laser head gets closer and closer (or farther and farther) to the panel surface pause the laser cutter, correct the Z axis and continue. Repeat as necessary.

Slow is nice, you don't want to test your reflexes.

Step 8: The Cut Panel

And before you know it ...Bam!

Now you have organic geometry at your disposal for your next design project or work of art.

At minimum, it can make a sweet lampshade!



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    16 Discussions


    3 months ago

    I like the way you think. That is very cool. I could see myself adding slivers to my art work.
    I had a large wasp nest somewhere. Not as large as yours and from an Australian wasp that builds its paper nest along and under branches. They seem to match the bark and just look like a fatter branch. When I find it I have a few ideas. I think it would look great imbedded in resin, but might be too frail for that? What do you think?
    Thank you for the inspirational instructional.


    3 months ago

    Wow, now, that's a HUGE wasps' nest! Impressive that 1) you kept it that long, and 2) you used a laser cutter to cut it into shapes to display! Clever and eye-opening


    1 year ago

    This is an interesting and unusual instructable, but what purpose did you have for the wasp's nest after you cut it?


    Reply 1 year ago

    I meant termite mounds are cool, not so much when they are eating your house

    Screen Shot 2018-02-27 at 9.18.26 pm.png

    Reply 1 year ago

    I wish we could "like" comments! [and if we can, someone please tell me how!]


    1 year ago on Step 8

    Interesting! I can also see enclosing in pourable plastic for, I dunno, coasters, suncatchers. Lampshade, yes. But also maybe glass-topped table. Who would have thought?

    uncle reamus

    1 year ago

    A little off subject,

    An old guy i used to work with went walking in the woods one late winter and found a hornets nest and decided it would look nice on his bookshelf. He took the nest home and placed it in his living room. few hours later the hornets woke from their hibernation and were not happy about being relocated.

    Eh Lie Us!

    1 year ago

    Wow. That was fascinating. Thanks for sharing.


    1 year ago

    so odd. i could not look away.


    1 year ago

    Where I live these are called Hornets....

    Josehf Murchison

    1 year ago on Step 8

    The wasps nests are a little different where you are from where I live.

    Here in Canada the wasps die off in the fall and the larvae hatch in the spring.

    We use the paper for wadding in black powder rifles.


    1 year ago on Step 8

    Holy cow! Any plans to sell on Etsy? I'd love a ... sheet? layer? Just to frame! Really cool!


    1 year ago

    wow, what a nest! i'm in central US and usually see them no larger than 40 cm.


    1 year ago

    Quite fascinating! The whole time I kept thinking, "the next step is where we find out there were still wasps in there.." Thankfully they were indeed all gone!

    I'm intrigued by what could be made out of this. Do you have a plan yet?