Spring has finally sprung and the weather is warming up nicely but I haven’t spotted a wasp yet which begs the question – where do wasps go in winter? Are they still in their nests, keeping warm and cosy like honey bees in a hive or have they migrated south with birds in search of food, sunshine, sandy beaches and sticky, sweet cocktails? And even more importantly, when will the wasps be back?
What do wasps do in Spring?
From now onwards you may spot larger than normal wasps. These are queen wasps emerging from their overwintering place which could be as diverse as the warm folds of a curtain, a cosy crevice in a shed or a loft. The queen wasps will be on the scout for a new place to build a nest and lay their eggs. You’ll certainly know it’s a queen if it stings you because only the female wasps have the distinctive stinger, which they can use repeatedly unlike bees.
At the end of the summer season, worker wasps return to the nest and die. Only the queen survives. The queen will never use the old nest (probably because it’s full of dead wasps) and build a new wasp nest, creating a single cell at the end of a petiole. Six more cells are then added to create the hexagonal shape.
The queen then lays eggs which grows into small larva. The larvae grows to full size then it pupates into an adult worker wasps. The lifecycle from egg to fully grown insect is approximately three weeks.
What’s inside a Wasp’s Nest?
The worker wasps will continue to build and maintain the nest, forage for food and feed the larvae. Until June the nests will normally be golf ball sized but may be larger with warm weather. From late June the wasp nest will have grown considerably and wasps can normally be spotted on the outside carrying our repair and maintainance work. Take a look at this amazing footage by worldofwasps showing a queen hornet and workers tending to the nest.
There are no hard and fast rules with nature, but help us to map out Britain’s wasp infestations by plotting your wasp sighting at http://www.ukwaspwatch.co.uk/