It’s almost December and on a daily basis I am still evicting live wasps from my home or vacuuming up their papery carcasses. This morning I opened the loft hatch in order to stash some Christmas presents and half a dozen deceased wasps tumbled onto the floor, indicating there must have been a nest in the house, possibly in the loft or beneath the roof tiles.
The wasps which I discover alive are larger than average, indicating they are queens. The males die soon after mating, but the young fertilized females leave the nest in the winter and search for a warm, sheltered spot. In my home they have snuggled inside my six year old son’s bed (resulting in an early morning stinging episode and hysterical young boy), crept inside the folds of curtains and hidden under the cushions on the sofa.
Unlike bees, wasps do not store food to see them through the winter. Bees survive from nectar but wasps catch insects which are in short supply over the winter months. In temperate regions such as the UK, a wasp colony will only survive for one season. The colony will start to break up in the Autumn and the workers will die of cold. The young fertilized queens will overwinter and emerge in spring and start to search for a suitable site for future colony.
I do not wish my home to be colonised next April so I am hoping that when the wasps are thrown out of my cosy home into the freezing temperatures outdoors they won’t see another season or the food chain will spring into action and a hungry bird will feast upon a rare and tasty mid-winter treat.