Information database about wasp nests, bees and hornets

Questions and answers resource about wasps, bees and hornets: page 8

How does the life cycle of a wasp begin?

The lifecycle of the wasp begins in autumn when new queens are produced just before the nest starts to die. Male wasps are also produced which mate with new queens. Once mating has taken place the males die, and the now fertile queens seek a place to hibernate over the winter months.

In the spring (usually March) as the temperature starts to rise queen wasps emerge from hibernation and begin to build a brand new nest. She starts the nest building process and lays the first batch of eggs. When these eggs have hatched then pupated into adult worker wasps, they are copies of the queen (although smaller and infertile) and are all female. These worker wasps take over nest building duties, food and water collection as the nest continues to grow.
Read more Lifecycle of the wasp

Do wasps or hornets revisit an old or dormant nest?

Usually, wasps and hornets will build a new nest each year. On occasion a new nest is built next to an old one; this is only due to the location being the ideal situation for a wasp nest. Wasps prefer to nest in dry, dark and undisturbed places, which is why they use loft spaces so often.

We have had large wasps indoors and its winter, why?

If you see larger than normal wasps indoors and its winter time, several things can be happening.

Is it unusually warm outside? As the ambient temperature starts to rise, hibernating queen wasps begin to emerge from hibernation. Usually, this happens in March, but recently we have been having mild winters and queens have been waking too early.

Do you have ceiling lights which shine down (downlights)? These types of lights also shine upwards into the loft space and will attract insects like wasps to the light. Some kinds of downlights have a large gap between the bulb, and the case and insects can squeeze through this gap.

I have a few bees flying about outside of my home. What are they?

There are three main types of bee which will nest in buildings.

Honey bees; most often nest in disused chimneys, but can also use wall cavities and other suitable places. Honey bees are reasonably small, about the same size as worker wasps but darker in colour. Honey bee numbers will be in the thousands. A small honey bee colony will have 5- 10,000 bees. Honey bees also bring pollen back to the nest, so look for yellow marks on their legs as they return to the nest.

Bumblebees appear much fluffier than honey bees and will number much less. A typical bumble bee nest will have around 50-100 bees present in the nest. Bumblebees also bring back pollen but are much darker and are bigger than honey bees.

Mason bees are solitary bees, but in spring when mating will congregate in small numbers. They will nest in holes in brickwork and also use the plastic weep vents in modern timber frames houses. Mason bees are harmless, and once mating has finished, they will disappear. Typical numbers seen are around 20-30 bees depending on the season.

I have ground nesting wasps or bees, how do I tell which?

Both wasps and bees nest in the ground, but once you know what to look for it is easy to identify the different species.

Wasps take over mouse burrows or old rabbit burrows and will excavate the soil underground to provide a space big enough to nest in. Wasps are very accurate when arriving at the nest entrance and will not hang about when entering. Depending on the time of year and the development stage of the nest, numbers will be much higher of wasps versus bees. The only bee which uses the same types of holes as wasps is the bumblebee.

Bumblebees appear much fluffier than wasps and are mostly black. There are several sub-species of bumblebees with differing sizes, but all are fluffy. Numbers will be much lower than wasps.

Mining bees also nest in the ground but dig a small hole in which to lay their eggs. These holes are just slightly larger than a wormhole, generally with a small pile of soil around the top of the hole. Mining bees tend to nest in the same area. This is partly due to soil makeup, but also due to mating behaviour. Mining bees are harmless and should be left alone. Tawny mining bees look similar to wasps but are more orange in colour and fluffier than wasps.

When can you remove a wasp nest?

If you have had a wasp nest treated and you want to remove the nest, we advise that you wait for a couple of days after treatment before moving the nest, this is to allow enough time for any foraging worker wasps to make it back to the nest and die from the insecticide.

If you have just found a wasp nest and you are unsure of its history, there are a couple of things to note: what time of year is it? If it is winter time, chances are the nest has died. Take a few minutes to watch the nest, is there anything crawling on the outside of the nest?

If you want a wasp nest removed and you are in any doubt, call a pest controller who will be geared up to safely remove the nest for you and deal with it, if it is still alive.

Removing a wasp nest

If you have an old nest that you want to remove, the best way to prevent a mess is to take a big bin liner or two (depending on the nest size). Wear gloves when handling a nest, especially if the nest has been treated. Try to slip the bin liner around the nest, so the bottom part of the nest is inside the bag. Starting from the bottom working upwards, detach the nest from whatever it is attached too. You will find the nest very fragile and will break apart easily. Once the majority of the nest is in the bin liner, you can break the remaining chunks of nest off into the bag for disposal.

We recommend that nests are only removed if they are in the way. As wasps only use a nest once, if an old nest is left in situ it is using up potential nesting space.

Wasp has stopped building its nest. Why?

When a nest first starts to be built it just the queen with no other worker wasps present. The queen has to feed herself, collect nesting material and find food for her first brood of larvae, meaning many trips out and about foraging for whatever is needed. While outside of the nest the queen is very vulnerable to predation from birds and other insects.

If the queen is killed or trapped inside a building for any length of time, she will die of starvation which means the nest will fail.

Prolonged cold or very wet weather can also affect nests in early development. If the first brood of larvae chill and die, very often the queen will abandon that nest and start a new one.

Should I block the entrance hole to a bees nest?

The simple answer to this question is no. You should never block the entrance to any wasp, hornet or bee nest.

Honey bees number in the thousands; if their entrance becomes blocked they will work together to make a new entrance/exit. Once blocked in, you do not control where the new exit will be, often this occurs in a worse place than the original.

Will bees nest in my compost bin?

Yes, both bumble bees and honey bees will use compost bins. The difference between bumble bees and honey bees are: Bumblebees look fluffy and black. They will nest within the actual compost; usually, a mouse-sized hole is the entrance. There will be up to 100 bees present.

Honey bees will also use compost bins for nesting in, but they will make a comb structure on the underside of the compost bin lid. They will need space within the compost bin to build their honeycomb. The ideal space for honey bees to nest in is approx 40 litres. Numbers of honey bees will be 5000+

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