May 6th, 2021 by
Bug phobias are common but even those who are very scared can appreciate that insects such as spiders and bees do important jobs in nature. Wasps, on the other hand, appear to have no redeeming features and are dedicated to ruining picnics and stinging people with absolute impunity – right? Well, you may be surprised to learn that there’s a lot more to wasps than meets the eye and, in many ways, they are merely misunderstood. Here are 5 facts about wasps that may just cast them in a new light and while it might not make you any less scared of them, at least you may appreciate why they behave as they do!
1. Wasps have an important ecological role
While it may make it easier to just outright hate them, wasps are not the pointless creatures you assume they are. It’s true that they are not the super-pollinators that bees are – they don’t have hairy bodies that allow the pollen to stick to them as bees do - but they do nevertheless still pollinate flowers and crops, making them important to food production. Not only that; they also regulate populations of many crop pests like caterpillars and whiteflies, allowing crops to prosper. They also kill insects that carry human diseases, such as mosquitos. Wasps, therefore, are actually ecologically important to the planet. This doesn’t mean you should just let that nest sit in your garage, however!
2. Spring is prime location-hunting time for queens
If you want to avoid having a wasp nest near your home this summer, keep an eye out in spring for any large, fat wasps checking out your property as a good place to settle down and raise the kids. Most wasps die off in the winter, but the young queens survive in order to emerge in the spring and find a good spot to locate her new colony. On her wish list for a new home is a sheltered spot with easy access to the outside. Roof eaves, guttering, wall cavities, and sheds all work well so keep an eye on these areas. Once she chooses a spot, she’ll build a few cells of her nest and start the process of laying eggs. These will become worker wasps who will take over the building of the nest. This does give you some time to spot the nest before it becomes a colony of thousands of wasps, so be vigilant from spring onwards.
3. Nests look papery because they’re made from wood
Wasp nests really are architectural marvels, made up of a network of hexagonal cells. The reason the surface of the nest looks like paper is because it’s made from wood fibre. The wasps scrape wood fibre from materials around them such as fences, sheds, and garden furniture. In fact, common signs of a wasp nest are tiny marks on these items that look like stripes or scrapes. They then chew it to make a pulp and use it to construct their distinctive nests.
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4. Why wasps are so angry!
By far, the greatest issue that everyone has with wasps is their aggressive nature and their propensity to sting. Unlike bees, they can sting many times and won’t die so they have no qualms about stinging you repeatedly. There are a couple of reasons why wasps can be so angry and a peak time of year when you’re more likely to get on the wrong end of that. Once the wasps have mated in the late summer, the queen has no further use for them and prevents them from returning to the colony. Cut off from their food source - the sugary liquid produced in the nest - they have to seek out food elsewhere. That’s why they’re often found hanging around near bins, picnics, and even in your home. They may also feed on fermented fruit which essentially makes them drunk and aggressive so when they bother you, don’t take it personally; they’ve just had one too many overripe pears!
5. Once abandoned, wasps won’t return to their nest
The wasp life cycle starts to come to an end in late summer. The queen will lay her last eggs around this time, which will produce new queens and drones rather than the worker wasps who have been building the nest and seeking food all summer. The original queen will then die and the new queens, having mated with drones (who then die) will go off to hibernate for the winter and the workers will die of old age too. Despite having a ready-to-move-into pad, queens will not come back to old nests but will choose instead to build a new one in the spring. Therefore, once abandoned by this year’s colony, wasps generally won’t come back to it. Of course, that’s not to say they won’t build another one in the same area
What should you do about a wasp nest?
Even though you can see what fascinating and useful creatures they are, whose aggressive nature can really be explained by their circumstances, you still don’t want to end up with a nest on your property. A sting still hurts no matter the extenuating circumstances, so what can you do? First of all, don’t knock the nest down or try to block up the entrance – all you will do here is agitate them further. The best way is to treat with a pesticide. Fumers, sprays, and dusting powders can all be effective, depending on the location of the nest and how easy they are to access. The best time to treat them is in the evening or at night when the wasps are least active.
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