Life Cycle

The wasp season starts the year in April. A fertilised Queen wasp will come out from hibernation and will find herself a suitable nesting place. The nesting place will vary in its positioning and although there are many genus' of wasps, their genus will not bind them to a particular location. Favourite positions are in the ground, in roof voids, in wall cavities, hollow trees and hanging in trees or bushes.

The Queen begins her job by initially starting work on her nest. The nest is made from wood which is chewed up using her strong jaws which she then mixes with saliva to form a delicate paper. The colour of the nest will be determined by the type of wood used. The cells in which the eggs are laid are hexagonal in shape and will hang down from a central stem within the nest. Then begins the production of workers, sterile female wasps that will build, feed and protect the nest. The workers will feed insects to the wasp larvae, who will exude a sweet substance to feed the workers. At the end of the summer the Queen stops producing eggs and the workers lose their supply of food. The workers then find alternative sources outside the nest. The last batch of eggs laid will become fertile Queens along with male wasps.

In an average nest, the Queen will produce anything up to 5000 wasps and the largest nests can reach up to 20,000 wasps. At the end of the season the nest will see all the workers, males and the original Queen die and leave hundreds of new fertilised Queens to go and hibernate for the following year. The same nest will not be occupied next year, although some hornet nests sometimes will be by a new Queen who will recycle the old paper.

Are they really a pest?

Wasps are beneficial insects, they are part of a well balanced ecosystem. They will feed upon other insects that we regard as pests such as flies, aphids and caterpillars. I have been asked many times "Why did God make wasps? What use are they?" but the fact is, they are an integral part of our ecosystem. Without them we would suffer from infestations of other insects and agricultural pesticides would be in more demand.

Wasps become a real nuisance to humans in late summer, when the workers are out looking for food and they will often eat your intended lunch! Sweet foods like jams, fruit and fizzy drinks are a real favourite for them. But it's not the eating of our lunch that makes them such a nuisance its that these little insects manage to give us something we really do not like -FEAR.

Its sting is quick and painful and can be repeated many times if you are in the wrong place at the wrong time. You can be stung by more then one wasp if you disturb their nest. The sting is used for defence and against its prey by injecting venom by a modified egg laying tube (ovipositor) hence only female wasps are able to sting.

The cells of a hornets nest, Britains largest wasp (Vespa crabro)