Finally after a long cold winter spring is upon us! This is great news for many reasons but mostly because it brings us closer to summer when the smell of fresh cut grass and barbeques will intertwine wafting as we bath in glorious sunshine. Well as we all know the summers in the UK, sometimes politely called Europe’s rain forest, don’t always live up to the dream. Instead our weekends can be spent finding activities under cover away from the rainy weather.
Well so far so good at least as the sunshine has got us off to a promising start. This time of year is very important for nature as hibernating insects’ awake to start their season. Nature is of course a wonderful thing giving us humans’ life through pollination. That being said there are some insects that cause us some discomfort and can even kill. I thought it would be a good time to write about one such creature that right now is starting its rain of terror, this insect being the wasp.
The Vespula spp or Yellow Jacket’s season begins when a queen awakes from habitation as spring starts. At this time you may notice large wasps dozily flying around bumping into homes and gardens. This apparent strange behavior isn’t a sign is madness from the wasp, it is actually a queen wasp looking for somewhere to settle and build her nest.
Here I can give our first piece of advice: If you see a queen carrying this out and you can kill her safely without getting stung then you may save a fully grown nest developing throughout the year.
Once a queen has found her spot she will start to build a small nest from saliva and wood chewed from materials like fences and other garden furniture. She will attached the nest to something sturdy such as a loft beam. Some of the strange places wasp nests have been known are in lawn mowers, bird boxes, the ground and even beds. This link from the BBC shows a wasp nest built within a bed!
So we know they can build them in strange places however commonly they are in places protected from the elements. Unfortunately that can mean in built up areas the nests are situated in homes, usually in warm loft spaces. The queen will position the nest near an access point so worker wasps can go out and forage for food and wood to further extend the nest.
The whole process while beginning in the springtime from just one queen wasp can lead to a nest growing to large size and becoming home to up to 10,000 wasps. At the back end of the season as autumn approaches the nest comes to an end, the queen stops producing larvae and so the nest decreases in number. It is a fair assumption to make that if you discover a nest towards the end of the year then it can be left, as it will soon perish. In truth you would be still well advised to have the nest treated. Pure Pest Management have written an interesting blog on this topic, but the gist is that if a nest is left before the queen and nest cease she has one more trick up her sleeve.
In her final weeks the queen will produce some last larvae that becomes new queens along with drone ‘male wasps’ for fertilization. The issue is these same queen wasps hibernate usually in the same proximity of the current nest ready for next year. Quite often were one nest was left to perish 3-4 new nests can form the following year meaning more that need dealing with. It is important to note once a nest is dead a new queen will never go back to that nest and will form a new one.
The genius of the life cycle of the wasp is obvious, as is the painful sting they are capable of. If you have any questions about wasps, bees or any other pest then please get in touch for a chat. Thanks for reading and enjoy your wasp free summer!