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(Vespula vulgaris)

Although many people are frightened of wasps, by explaining their life cycle, this leaflet aims to allay some of those fears, through a better understanding the insects themselves.

The queen wasp emerges from hibernation in the spring and looks for a site for a new nest. You will recognise her by her size (about three times the size of a worker wasp). She does not use the old nest from a previous year.
There are no males at this time of year, as the queen was fertilised last autumn and the males died off at
the end of the previous year.

Wasp nests

Wasps Nest The queen starts the nest by chewing wood or bark to make a type of paper mache. At this stage the nest is only the size of a golf ball and is attached to the branch of a hedge, the ceiling of a porch, or a rafter in the loft etc. The queen then lays the first 10 or so eggs. The eggs hatch and turn into the familiar black and yellow striped wasps; these wasps forage for food and begin to enlarge the nest. After this stage the queen never leaves the nest again. By late summer the nest may contain 10,000 or more wasps and be the size of a football; in very warm locations some nests can be even larger. All the worker wasps are sterile female workers, and their job is to attend the queen, maintain thright:e nest, and bring back food for the young wasp grubs. In late summer a few male wasps and new queens are hatched. These mate and produce fertilised queens.

Unlike bees, wasps do not make honey. Instead the adult wasps feed on sweet substances like nectar in flowers and on fruit. They also kill large numbers of insects which they take back to the nest to feed the young. At this stage wasps are a beneficial insect as they are part of nature's control of many insects in the garden. They are also so busy collecting food for their young that they are not normally a problem. Wasps will, however, defend their nest aggressively if it is disturbed or threatened, so you should always leave eradication to a pest control technician who has protective clothing, experience of dealing with wasps’ nests and specialised insecticides only available to professional users.

WaspsAs autumn comes, the queen stops laying eggs and a large number of wasps find themselves with less and less work to do. At this stage, wasps become a nuisance, as their search for sweet food takes them into kitchens and factories looking for jam, sugar, soft fruit, etc. They are drowsy and it is now that they are most likely to sting and cause fear. Dead wasps can sting for a day or so after death, so remember not to go barefoot in the garden after a nest has been treated! The final part of the cycle is that the queen that originally built the nest, the female workers and males die, and only the young fertilised queens survive. These queens look for a safe crevice to spend the winter, and go into hibernation. In the spring they emerge to start the life cycle over again.

The old wasp nest consists of a fragile paper shell and contains only a little debris and the remains of any un-hatched eggs. It does not smell or cause any damage. If the nest is outdoors, it will dissolve in the wind and rain. Indoors the nest will slowly crumble into dust. It is not really necessary to remove the old nest, as wasps do not re-use the same nest year on year.

SDK (Environmental) Ltd trading as Dial A Pest, Acorn House, Aspen Way TQ4 7QR.
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