What you need to know about wasps
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.
Facts About Wasps
Although wasps can be useful around the garden by consuming dead insects and eating flies, they can be a nuisance too. Apart from stinging, their persistence can be irritating and presents a threat to those allergic to their sting. Seek medical help immediately if you are stung in the mouth or neck, or if you experience giddiness, nausea, unusual swelling or extreme pain following a sting.
The facts about wasps
We all know that wasps can sting repeatedly, but here are some facts about wasps you may not know:
- Wasp venom contains a pheromone that causes other wasps to become more aggressive. Try not to swat one near its nest or other wasps.
- The sting of a wasp should wear off within 24 hours, but for a small minority of people, the venom in their sting causes anaphylactic shock which can be fatal.
- An ordinary sting can be treated with deodorant containing aluminum.
- Wasps live in colonies that form self-contained communities, each following a caste order of queens, males, and workers.
- A male wasp is called a Drone. The job of the Drone is to mate with the Queen. After they have fulfilled this mission, they die shortly afterward.
- Wasps don’t swarm.
- European Hornets strip the bark from trees, causing damage to trees and shrubs.
- Wasps feed their young meat (e.g. insect larvae).
- The only wasps that survive the winter are young fertilized queens. They emerge from overwintering in the spring to build new nests. Initially, the queen lays up to a dozen eggs and when they hatch into larvae she feeds them until they become workers. The workers then forage for food, feed the new larvae and defend the nest.
- In late summer, the colony produces males and new queens. They fly away to mate and the queens then find a place to hibernate. The cold weather eventually kills the males, workers, and foundation queen.
Why Do Wasps Sting?
Wasps sting other insects to subdue or kill their prey. They also sting to protect their nest from a perceived threat, even if the threat isn’t real. Some wasp species are quite aggressive, and unlike honeybees, wasps can sting repeatedly.
Additionally, like bees, wasps can alert the troops with pheromones if they sense a threat. This is a chemical call to their colony that they are under attack, and they will come out of seemingly nowhere to mount a defense. The ability to sting multiple times, their aggressive tendencies, and their ability to rally the nest to attack are the characteristics that makes wasps dangerous to humans.
Differences From Bees
Wasps are distinguishable from bees by their pointed lower abdomens and the narrow “waist,” called a petiole, that separates the abdomen from the thorax.
They come in every color imaginable, from the familiar yellow to brown, metallic blue, and bright red. Generally, the brighter colored species are in the Vespidae, or stinging wasp, family.
All wasps build nests. Whereas bees secrete a waxy substance to construct their nests, wasps create their familiar papery abodes from wood fibers scraped with their hard mandibles and chewed into a pulp.
How to avoid wasp stings?
The following tips can help you avoid painful wasp stings:
- Carefully dispose of all food and drinks, especially soft drink cans.
- Never leave sugary drinks unattended. Also, always check sugary drinks for wasps before consuming.
- Keep all areas of your property clean and tidy.
- Check for wasp activity before carrying out any gardening activity.
- Avoid strong scents and bright clothing.
- Protect your feet by wearing closed shoes.
Should I remove wasp nest myself?
It is important to treat a wasp nest as soon as possible. Removing a wasp nest is a complex process and requires professional help. To avoid the risk of painful wasp stings (and possible allergic reactions), we strongly advise you not to try to remove a wasp nest yourself. Remember, you could cause serious injury to yourself or others if you provoke the wasps in the nest.