Have your summer get-togethers turned into a game of dodge the wasps? Getting tired of flapping your arms and asking what the buzzing blighters want with your cider? Why do wasps fly at us during summer?
The answer to this lies in the deeply complicated world of Wasp colonies. Understanding the different stages involved in building these colonies is how we gain an understanding of these stinging little critters, and why they dive-bomb our picnic tables determined to destroy our summers.
We’ll make this short, snappy and condensed only to the best wasp facts!
Wasps only live during summer, right?
It’s a common misconception that wasps die off in winter due to the cold, but in fact, it’s due to the lack of food. Only hibernating mated queens over-winter, and only one in a thousand queens survive the colder months. Come winter, lucky for us, fifty percent of wasp queens are dead.
When the weather reaches 10 degrees Celsius, the queen begins the important task of founding a colony. Usually choosing corner spots under eaves and overheads, and in roof spaces and wall cavities, thousands of trips are made to collect wood which the queen pulps (via her mouth) into a papier-mâché consistency to help build her nest. This is an enormous feat, and the reason why it’s so pivotally important that she not retreat from hibernation too early.
Where do all the wasps come from then?
Before the nest is even complete, the queen will begin to lay eggs to start building her brood, whom she’ll feed on insects such as caterpillars. To ensure the queen has enough food to continue the life of the wasp colony, her grubs convert their insect dinner into free sugar, which they feed to her so she no longer has to leave the nest.
As the queen’s eggs hatch into worker wasps, the colony starts to take shape. With the queen focusing on egg-laying, some workers find wood for the nest, others find water to keep the nest cool, some hunt for food and feed the grubs, while some guard the colony.
At this point, most of this waspy action is taking place away from our prying eyes, and even our notice. It’s the next stage we humans are all too familiar with. Beer matts over your drinks people!
Why do they suddenly appear, getting all stingy?
It’s at the stage where the queen decides to stop laying eggs, and instead begins the process of producing new queens, that the behaviour of the worker wasps begins to change. No longer able to eat the free sugar produced by the grubs, they head out of the nest on the hunt for the sugar they so desperately need. And your summer cider is full of the stuff!
You see, it’s not a vendetta held by an entire species of insect against our own, you’ve simply got what they need.
Wasp stings can be fatal
We should still stress, that while we’ve demystified the great wasp attacks of summers past, present and future, wasp stings can be fatal, and you should take care if you’re bitten.
With the possibility that thousands of wasps could be serving a single queen, aggressive swarm attacks are common should the wasps or their nests be disturbed. Only qualified pest controllers should try to remove a wasp nest.