Wasps, Wasp Nests and Wasp Removal – The Definitive Guide

DID YOU KNOW: Ryan Gosling loves wasps

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As a pest control company in Birmingham we are strongly aware that wasps are typically regarded as one of the worst living concepts ever. Infesting our gardens, spoiling our BBQs, bathing in our sugary beverages like promiscuous bankers on a Friday. These are just a few of the many problems these winged nightmares bring to your now desolated garden table.

During your time on Earth, you may relish in the fact that you have killed several of these miniature demons, and why wouldn’t you? I’m sure you’ve succeeded in your wasp endeavours, trapping them in pint glasses, drowning them with the garden hose and acing them out of the grass like Andy Murray at Wimbledon, are just a few of your achievements.

Despite wasps being a large and incredibly annoying feature of everyone’s lives, there’s much we don’t know about them, and dare I say it, they’re actually very important. This begs several questions: how are they useful? What is their purpose? They have a queen? Is this blog trying to make me sympathise with wasps?

Obviously wasps are incredibly irritating, so this isn’t an ode to praising wasps. However, there are certain attributes that make the wasp a very important contributor to our environment and even our social lives. The phrase ‘know your enemy’ comes to mind here, so put your hatred aside for now, as you might find that there is more to wasps than meets the beady eye.

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A Definitive Guide to Wasps

Let’s start with the obvious.


1. Identifying Wasps

Know Your Enemy
Know Your Enemy

Simple, right? Just look for the black and yellow striped nightmare hovering over your lemonade and then swiftly dispose of it using your ever-successful slap-and-smack technique. More often than not, this will work. However there are far more efficient wasp-dispatching techniques to adopt here if this arouses your wasp annihilation interests.

The reason it’s important to identify wasps is because sometimes you may be unintentionally swatting at an insect that doesn’t necessarily deserve it. Let’s start with the most common wasps spotted in people’s homes and building colonies in their properties.

Common UK Wasp Species:

Common Wasp

European Hornet

European Paper Wasp

German Wasp

Red Wasp

It’s good to know what you’re dealing with when it comes to these insects. The difference between a wasp and a hornet for example is very important, especially if you’re attempting to remove a nest. Below is a simple guide on how to identify the difference between the two:

Common Wasp

A Common Wasp
A Common Wasp

How to Identify:

They’re usually about 2 cm long, have bright yellow and black bands along the body, with an obvious ‘waist’ between the thorax and abdomen. They also have two pairs of wings and fairly long, robust antennae. The sting is located at the tip of the abdomen. The queens (reproductive females) are larger than workers (non-reproductive females).

Habitat:

This species is found in a wide range of habitats and is common in gardens, woodlands and meadows as well as around habitation.

When are They Around?:
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April to late October.

History:

The common wasp usually forms large colonies below ground, but occasionally nests may be made in wall cavities, hollow trees and attics. Queens emerge from hibernation during the spring, and they search for a suitable location in which to start a new colony. She then begins to build the nest with chewed up wood pulp, which dries to make a papery substance. A few eggs are laid, which develop into non-reproductive workers. These workers eventually take over the care of the nest, and the queen’s life is then devoted solely to egg laying. At the end of autumn a number of eggs develop into new queens and males, which leave the nest and mate. The new queens seek out suitable places in which to hibernate, and the males and the old colony (including the old queen) die.

British Hornet

How to Identify:

Size 25 to 35 mm. The hornet is an impressive insect and is Britain’s largest social wasp. Queens (reproductive females) are larger than the males and workers (non-reproductive females). The thorax area is brown and it has alternating bright orange-yellow and brownish-black stripes along the abdomen.

Habitat:
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Woodlands, parks and gardens.
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When are They Around?

May to November.

History:
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You may not believe this, but the hornet is rarely aggressive unless the colony is threatened. Queens emerge from hibernation during the spring, and they search for a suitable location in which to start a new nest. The queen begins to build the nest with chewed wood pulp, and a few eggs are laid in individual paper cells; these eggs develop into non-reproductive workers. When 5-10 workers have emerged, they take over the care of the nest, and the rest of queen’s life is devoted solely to egg laying. The nest grows throughout the summer, reaching its peak size towards mid September. At this time the queen lays eggs that develop into males (drones) and new queens, she then dies shortly after. The new queens and males mate during a ‘nuptial flight’, after which the males die, and the newly mated queens seek out suitable places in which to hibernate; the old nest is never re-used.
Now that you’ve been David-Attenborough’d, time to take a look at what wasps actually do.
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2. What Do Wasps Do?

The age old question, but one we frequently find ourselves asking time, and time again. The hell do these cretins do apart from upset my summer garden parties and cause me unnecessary cardio exercise?

Annoyingly Helpful
Annoyingly Helpful

Quite a lot… Unfortunately.

  • Wasps eat flies, aphids, caterpillars and other invertebrates, making them an important insect-controlling predator.
  • Wasps are amazing architects, building hexagonal paper nests from chewed up wood.
  • Wasps are important pollinators.
  • Wasp nests provide a home for some of our most beautiful, pollinating hoverflies.

Following that, wasps are also carriers of yeast, which is incredibly important.

“Yeast?!” I hear you cry. “Pffft. Yeast isn’t that important.” I to said to myself as I swirled my can of larger that would be none existence if it wasn’t for wasps.

Wait, what?

It’s tough to take, but we need wasps

Yes, wasps carry yeast… Yeast is used in the production of beer, wine and bread. So, say goodbye to your bacon sarnies, wine and beer every time you swat a wasp. Then again, wasp populations are in a very stable place in comparison to bees.

However, the same cannot be said for bees. Just a quick side note to add –

DO NOT KILL BEES.


Bee numbers are in drastic decline.

‘Bumblebees are mainly under threat because of changes to the countryside in the UK. Changes in agricultural techniques have meant that there are far fewer wildflowers in the landscape than there used to be, meaning that many of our bumblebee species are struggling to survive.’

Did you ever see Winnie the Pooh kill a bee? No, or at least not intentionally. He was prone to throwing his head inside a bee hive which would realistically end the lives of a few bees, but then again Eeyore consistently nailed his tail back on which would technically require extensive surgery. Ultimately, I think we should let Pooh off on this one. Pooh liked bees and so should you.

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Wasps ARE PHENOMENAL ARCHITECTS

Much like bees, wasps are fantastic at buildings colonies for their queen. In late spring, large wasps can be seen. These are usually the queens who will be searching for suitable nest sites. Holes in trees, deserted mammal holes, cracks in walls – pretty much any stable structure that can maintain a colony. They make the nests from chewed up wood and wasp saliva which creates a paper-like material.

The Building of the Nest

A queen will begin by building a cylindrical column which is covered in a chemical produced by the queen to repel ants. She continues to build the hexagonal-shaped cell block until she has 20-30 cells then lays an egg in each. Once hatched, she divides her time between feeding the larvae and the nest building. The nest is very intelligently designed, much like ants, their crafting skill is something to be admired. Take a look inside a nest here.

Later in the summer all of the now-hatched wasps will bombard you and your soft drinks. The reason for this is down to them needing food to feed their larvae. In the later summer, the new queens and male drones emerge from the nest. Once the queen departs the colony, all the other wasps in the colony die.

Wasp Nest Removal – What To Do If You Find A Nest

Treating the nest is often better than removing it
Treating the nest is often better than removing it

It goes without saying, but removing a wasp nest can be very dangerous. In an attempt to protect the colony, wasps will attack if they feel threatened. This usually ends up with them stinging you in order to defend their nest and young.

To get rid of wasps you don’t necessarily need to remove the nest. Though treating it and the nesting wasps is strongly advised.

However in the circumstance of discovering a mature wasp nest in late summer, you will almost certainly require professional treatment due to the high risk of wasp stings. By this stage, a nest may contain thousands of individual wasps.

If you feel capable of tackling a smaller nest, the list below highlights some of the most effective treatments:

  • Use soap sprays on the nest
  • Putting up fake nests
  • Grow plant-deterring wasps
  • Home-mad glass wasp traps
  • Block off entrances & exits of underground nests
  • Avoid open soft drinks

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4. Why do Wasps Sting?

There is a specific time of year when wasps become more aggressive than usual. During the last months of summer, the normal social structure of wasp nests breaks.

Wasp Stings can be Fatal
Wasp Stings can be Fatal

Priorities change and instead of raising workers, their aim becomes raising queens, which will hibernate and create new colonies the next year. At this time, the hormone which maintains colony cohesion is no longer produced, resulting in disoriented wasps looking for sweets like a glass of your favourite juice.

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IMPORTANT: If You are Allergic to Wasp Stings, Take Caution

Wasps are not deadly venomous like snakes or other creatures. Yet, they do have venom which causes three types of physical reactions in people – normal, localized and anaphylactic.

What Are The Symptoms Of A Wasp Sting?

As we mentioned above, there are several types of reactions to the insect venom.

Normal Reaction:

Normal reactions to stinging are a tiny white dot in the area where the venom entered your body, pain and slight swelling for a short period of time.

Large Local Reaction:

Large local reactions are one level up when it comes to consequences of wasp “bites”. They usually result in redness and swelling, even a few days after the wasp attack.

Anaphylactic Reaction:
The most severe allergic reactions to wasp stings are referred to as anaphylaxis. Symptoms of a severe allergic reaction to wasp stings include severe swelling of the face, lips, or throat.
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Understandably, this can become a distressing issue to property owners. For safe and effective wasp removal and/or solutions, why not give this trendy underlined link a click, or maybe this one, it may save you. Literally.
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3. Are Wasps Naturally Aggressive?

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Wasps will attack if they feel their hive is under threat

Our immediate reaction to this question is “yes, obviously and, well, we’re right. What people may not know is that there are two types of wasps. The social wasp and the solitary, but their reaction to people or any other intruders is the same – aggression.

Even if it wasn’t your intention to come across them, the buzzing, angry gang will chase you for at least a few yards in an attempt to ward you off. The answer to the question “Why are wasps so angry?” is quite simple. Normally, they don’t look for trouble. They aren’t even aware of your existence unless they see you as a threat to their colony or larvae. In this case, the least you will get away with a sprint when the buzzers “lose their temper”.

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4. Why do we need wasps?

By this point you’re probably thinking “we certainly do not need wasps, they’ve ruined my picnic, colonised above my brand new conservatory and stung my darling puppy, Carrington.” You might even ask ‘what’s the point in wasps? What do they even do?’ Well… as it turns out, quite a lot.


bee-160732_1280The plain fact is that if any animals do have a ‘point,’ they’re wasps and bees. In fact, without them, the human population would be buried in over 800 million tonnes of bugs.


Guinness World Records lists the cabbage aphid as the most fertile animal on Earth, with the potential for billions of offspring from one single female. It has been calculated that in a year, with no predation, one cabbage aphid could cover our entire planet in a layer of bugs 93 miles deep, weighing 822 million tonnes.

So, one of the main reasons we aren’t suffocating under an avalanche of bugs is the hunger of these wasps that we hate so much.

Wasps aren’t even eating for themselves either, most of the time anyway. Throughout the summer they are actually searching for food to serve their young. If you can take any joy from the site of wasps, take joy in the fact they have chosen your garden to settle in.

Wasp Stings Destroy Cancer Cells?

Even the wasp’s sting could have a positive impact on the human population. Medical researchers are exploring the potential use of biologically active molecules found within wasp venom for cancer therapy. A chemical found in the venom of the tropical social wasp Polybia paulista, has been shown to selectively destroy various types of cancerous cells.

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5. When are Wasps Most Likely to be Around?

 

Queens arrive in April

A Queen Wasp

April sees the young queen wasps awaken from their winter slumber and begin to build nests. The queen populates the nest with workers hatched from eggs she fertilized with sperm she collected the previous autumn. The eggs hatch into female worker wasps who assume the job of building the nest larger and creating new cells for the queen to lay her eggs into.

In May the Nest is Built

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Worker wasps tending to their nest

In May, the queen continues to lay eggs which will hatch into larvae and are fed insects by worker wasps. During the beginning of the month, the second group of hatched larvae pupate into adult workers. This process takes place repeatedly over the remainder of the summer. By the end of May, the first workers have been joined by dozens of others who help build the nest and take care of the larvae.

Worker Wasps in June and July

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Wasps collect food for themselves and their larvae

During the peak of summer, the wasp nest hits their highest level and the nest continues to grow in size. By July, many hundreds of wasps have been raised to adulthood in the nest and hundreds more are resting in their eggs or are recently hatched. These hundreds of adult worker wasps travel outside the nest each day to find food in the form of caterpillars and other insects to feed the larvae inside the nest.

August, September and October

winter-598631_1920During the close of summer and the birth of winter, the wasp activity is beginning to wind down. The workers begin to die and the queen’s egg-laying process slowing. During those months she lays eggs that hatch into fertile males and females, rather than the infertile female workers she previously hatched. The queen dies during this time and the young queens mate with the fertile males and fly off. The fertile males are the last to die.

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We told you, wasps are incredibly important!


farmer-540658_1920So, there you have it. Your definitive guide to wasps, and some. So go into next summer with a refreshed outlook on the lives of wasps. You may even entertain the idea of a wasp nest residing inches above your front door. Who knows, maybe this is the turning point of the ever-volatile relationship between the wasp and human?

We can finally live in harmony…


Who am I kidding, we all still hate these cretinous idiots. Why can’t they be more like bees.

If only wasps were as nice as bees…

And as for Ryan Gosling loving wasps? That was probably a lie, but who knows?

Comments

comments

7 thoughts on “Wasps, Wasp Nests and Wasp Removal – The Definitive Guide”

  1. Wow, I did not know there were so many different kinds of wasps in UK!

  2. Fantastic article Alan! I was searching for how long wasps live, as i saw one in my house over a month ago and it’s still alive. I found this article and now feel I’m an expert on wasps! Excellent work, keep it up.

  3. Well… I don’t think I will start to love wasps, but I recognise they deserve respect. Far from me, anyway!

  4. This is great Alan thanks. This really covers everything you need to know about wasps!

  5. We have a wasps nest under our floor. They seem to be entering through the brick work .What do you suggest we do?

  6. I hate, hate, HATE wasps! I have a serious phobia about them. This is just plain freaking me out!!!

  7. Hi, I have wasps flying above the guttering of my house, could you give me a quote for the removal of the nest Thank you!

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