Wasps are generally considered a nuisance with the threat of their sting and the fact that some people are allergic to them. While we don’t often see wasps until the summertime the queen start to build her nest in early spring. So what should you do if you notice wasps swarming around your property and what do you need to know about these insects? We uncover some useful and interesting wasp facts.
There are over 120,000 different species of wasps and they exist in every country of the world except in Antartica. The most obvious wasp that we see in the UK is the Common wasp or Vespula vulgaris. It has distinct black and yellow warning stripes and can be found throughout the UK. From time to time we see headlines that we are about to be invaded by wasps from Africa or other countries like the Killer hornet.
Many wasps are solitary, this means they lay their eggs on or in other insects eventually killing their hosts. There are also social species of wasps which make their nests using wood pulp. It is these social wasps that you need to beware of as the queen will make here nest in early spring somewhere warm and hospitable.
The earliest wasps can be traced back to the Jurassic period and are thought to have evolved from much smaller insects.
The male wasp is known as a drone while the female wasp is known as a queen worker. Only the female has a sting.
Solitary wasps are parasites and will find a host and lay their eggs in them (usually another insect). For this reason, they are good to have in the garden as they kill other insects. Social wasps can be more of a problem for us humans though. In early spring the queen wasp, who has sought shelter through the winter, will come out and start to build a nest. They will search for a hospitable place – a brick, a hole in a tree, under the eaves of your garage or in other places where they can easily find food. To make their nest they chew up bark turning it into a pulp which is then used with mud and other things to make the nest.
While wasps don’t transmit diseases through their sting, they do have one massive risk to health and that is if a human is allergic to their sting. Anaphylactic shock can be induced from a wasp sting. Those that know they are allergic to the sting will carry an adrenalin pen in case they get stung.
Most wasps live for a few months or a year and by the winter most will have died off. A few queens survive to build the colony for next year. They seek shelter in the winter until it is warm enough to come out again.
Most wasps mate once a year. Following mating, the female wasps will hibernate in the ground or a safe place until spring. The males then die. When it comes to social wasps not all females are fertile. It is their job to assist in nurturing the young of other female wasps. In the case of solitary wasps, all females are fertile.
While there may not appear to be much activity going on, before long you can rest assured that there will be. Don’t touch or disturb the nest. Step away and call in the experts who will be able to remove your wasp nest and take steps to ensure that they don’t build another.