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Wasps

Wasps can be a nuisance during warmer weather in the spring and summer months. They have a potent sting and can attack in large numbers if disturbed or threatened. They sting to defend their nests and if they do sting humans or animals, it is usually due to the fact that they have been disturbed in some way.

Wasps often like the same foods we do, so if having lunch, picnics or barbecues in an area with wasps it pays to check your food before you take a bite. A wasp maybe sitting on your apple or sandwich, or may have entered your open can of soft drink or beer. If drinking from a bottle, replace the cap between drinks. Stings in the mouth or tongue are particularly dangerous, as the swelling can restrict airways.

Life Cycle

Wasps will behave differently depending on where they are in their life cycle. In order to successfully manage nuisance wasps it is important to understand wasp behaviour and therefore it is important to understand the life cycle of the wasp.

For convenience, the wasp life cycle can be divided into four stages. It is important to understand however, that these four stages are not clearly defined in nature as one stage will cross over into the next as wasps progress through the different stages of their life cycle. Furthermore, the different stages are weather dependant and may vary by as much as three months.

Hibernation

(from as early as the beginning of September to as late as the end of April)

The first stage of the life cycle is hibernation. Wasp colonies die off during the winter months; not because of the cold but because of starvation for a lack of food.

Overwintering queen wasps emerge from hibernation when temperatures in the shade reach about 10°C.

Colony Founding

(from as early as the beginning of March to as late as the end of May)

When queen wasps come out of hibernation they have only one thing on their mind and that’s to establish their colony as quickly as possible. For queen wasps this is a deadly race against time which most of them will lose. Not only do they have to find nectar to feed themselves, they also have to find a suitable nesting place and start building their nests. This requires thousands of trips to collect wood which they pulp into papier mache to build their nests.

Colony Growth

(from as early as the beginning of April to as late as the end of November)

Colony growth really kicks of once sufficient worker wasps have hatched to take over the routine chores of the nest. At this point the queen becomes nest bound and her job is to lay eggs and control the activities of her workers

The nest will continue to grow until the queen decides it is time to produce her new sexual progeny. Up until that time, the colony will continue to hunt for insects helping to get rid of all manner of harmful insect pests.

Procreation

(from as early as the third week of July to as late as the beginning of December)

There then comes a time when the queen decides that the time is right to create her sexual progeny, i.e. the new queens and drones (male wasps) that will carry the species forward into the next year. What triggers this decision is not known but the remarkable thing is is that it is co-ordinated with all of the other wasp nests usually country wide.

Once the old nest has released its sexual progeny, it is said to have ‘matured’. A matured wasp nest behaves very differently. The old queen stops laying eggs and as a consequence before long there are no grubs in the nest. Without grubs in the nest, the worker wasps don’t get any food and start to starve.

It is at this point that the workers then go looking for sweet sugary liquids from other sources. In nature this coincides with the fruit and flowers that are produced by certain plants and trees. It also coincides with the time when we try to enjoy outdoor drinking and dining and it is at this time that the worker wasps become nuisance wasps.

Importantly, these nuisance worker wasps are already in decline and are starting to starve to death so eradicating them when they are a nuisance has no effect on future colonies.

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