Advice about wasps, bees and hornets

Wasp, bee and hornet FAQ's: page 7

What is the name of a young/baby wasp?

A young wasp is referred to as being in its larvae stage. The queen lays an egg into a cell within the nest; the egg hatches into maggot type larva. In the larval stage, wasps cannot fly and are confined to the cell in which their egg was laid in.

Do wasps live all year round?

Social wasps such as the common, European wasps and the European hornet produce queens which hibernate through the winter months. Workers die when food sources run out in late autumn. From late spring/early summer there will be queens and workers, this lasts up until autumn when new queens are produced which hibernate and wake in the following spring to start new nests. For further information read Life-cycle of the wasp

When can baby wasps fly?

Often people see small wasps and think they must be young/baby wasps. Any social wasp which can fly is an adult and will get no bigger. The size of an adult wasp depends on how much food it had consumed during its larval stage. Adult wasps have an exoskeleton (which means their skeleton is on the outside rather than inside like a human) thus cannot grow any bigger than their outer shell will allow. Baby wasps (larvae) must pupate into adults before they can fly.

How can I destroy a wasp nest without getting hurt or killed?

The obvious answer to this question is to get a professional pest controller to do the job in a safe way using professional products designed for the purpose.

It is winter; I have found a wasp nest. Will it be viable in the spring?

In the UK, most wasp nests die in the autumn in an average year. Occasionally a large nest will continue into the New Year if the winter is mild and there is a food source local. But once a nest is dead, it never gets reused again. If it is winter time and you have found a nest with no activity, it will not be used again.

Will wasps build nests in January/February?

No, adult wasps including queens can only feed on sugar-rich liquids like nectar or sugary drinks (which is why they are a nuisance in late summer around pub gardens). There are no nectar-producing plants available in the winter months. In unusually warm winters, lots of queen wasps wake up too early and starve to death.

Do female wasps die when they give birth?

Throughout the summer, all adult wasps are female, but each nest has only one queen who lays eggs. A queen wasp can lay thousands of eggs throughout the summer. Once her nest dies at the end of the year, she dies too. Before the queen dies she lays special eggs which hatch to become new queens for the next year; she also lays eggs which will hatch to become males which mate with the new queens.

Why do wasp nests look stripy or swirly?

Wasps chew dead wood and mix it with saliva to make a wood paste which they then use to make their nest. The swirly patterns seen on a wasp nest are where the wasps have constructed each little part of the nest in sections. Often you will see different colour swirls; this is where the wasps have collected wood from various sources of dead wood. Often people treat their fence panels with different colour wood preservatives, and wasps gather this treated wood.

Are wasps naturally harmful to humans?

Wasps have been around for millions of years, so they are not a threat to the human population as a whole; in fact, they are very beneficial as they keep other insect numbers in check.
They can be potentially dangerous to individual people who are allergic to wasp venom. For further information, read our page on wasp stings and signs of anaphylactic shock

How can wasps get in your house?

Wasps will build nests in wall cavities, loft spaces and just about any other suitable void they find. Often these places are within occupied homes.
Queen wasps also use these places to hibernate over the winter.
In spring, when queens start to emerge from hibernation, they make mistakes and for one reason or another will find their way inside houses, queens are slightly larger (plumper) than an ordinary worker wasp. Bright lights attract them, especially ceiling down lights which also shine into the loft.
During the summer when wasp nests are active, worker wasps will also find their way inside houses; the reasons can be plentiful, from an open door, poorly fitting loft hatches, holes in the ceilings and downlights.
Another problem often encountered is when people have windows open during the summer nights; when they wake early to go to work and put the bedroom/bathroom lights on, wasps are attracted to the light and come in through the open windows.

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