Ropalidia marginata, the most common Indian social wasp, belongs to a crucial stage of social evolution showing no obvious morphological caste differentiation but a behavioural caste differentiation and a dominance hierarchy that appears to influence division of labour. The nests consist of a single open comb that can sometimes have up to 500 cells and 10 pedicels. Nests are initiated and abandoned all round the year. Initiation is by 1–20 foundresses, 1–4 being the most common number. There is a great deal of variation in brood developmental times both within and between nests. Male progeny disappear from the nest soon after emergence while daughters stay on at the parent nest for a mean period of about a month. Small nests have a single egg layer while large nests have two or more females with well developed ovaries that presumably lay eggs. Most nests are short-lived, small nests being highly susceptible to failure. Large nests are less susceptible to failure but the emergence of multiple egg layers reduces the average relatedness of workers to the brood which presumably is the cause for large scale emigrations from these nests. An interaction of ecological and soical factors therefore appears to determine the growth of a nest.