What Happens To Wasps at The End of The Year?
Why Do We Get Wasps In The House In The Autumn?
What we regularly encounter in the autumn is the phenomena of wasps entering homes from beneath floors, through holes in walls and ceilings and also down chimneys.
As the temperatures fall, the wasps remaining in the nest at the end of the year become increasingly disorientated by the effect of cold on their central nervous system similar to that of hypothermia in humans, and also a lack of food from both external sources e.g. insects and fruit etc and from larvae in the colony.
All in all they experience something of a famine and this causes them to wander into areas of a property where they would otherwise have no reason too.
Also as the nights grow shorter it is not unreasonable to suggest that the wasps would be more likely to explore the cavity in which they nest and discover new exits from the nest that appear to take them into warm sunshine only to discover it’s actually a bulb in someone’s bedroom.
Where do all the wasps go in winter?
Wasps like all insects are subject to a life-cycle and it could be said that the wasp nest has a life-cycle of its own. In the UK most wasp and hornets nests last from April until September, but this can vary depending on the climate of the given year.
In 2011 we experienced record temperatures in March and April, allowing some wasps to begin nest construction almost two months earlier than in previous years.
So nature uses it’s random climatic opportunities to its best advantage. some wasps like the median wasp have quite small colonies compared to the Common or European wasps and it has been seen that once the nest reaches about the size of a football, nest construction stops, and the nest matures – meaning that the queens and males develop and leave the colony signalling its demise.
This could be because the queen of the median wasp has a smaller number of fertile eggs. Whatever the true reason this particular species of wasp seems to have two or three broods a year.
Common and European wasps have the capacity to produce massive wasps nests that support tens of thousands of workers, but the seasonal fall in both temperatures and insect prey mean that in the UK these wasps naturally die off.
In countries like New Zealand the picture can be very, very different as the winter is warm enough and prey abundant enough all year round to sustain a continuation of nest development that can see insect numbers spiraling to beyond 100000 insects.
These nests are significant both in scale and in the lethal potential such colonies can pose to humans and other animals alike.
British wasps have very harsh climatic changes to endure, compared to the same species in Australia and New Zealand. As the year draws to a close the temperature and prevailing conditions begin to make life for wasps increasingly difficult.
As the nest matures and the queen stops laying her precious eggs, the remaining larvae become future males and queens.
The male wasps are often recognizable by their lack of a sting, elongated abdomen and far hairier appearance. These shortly after mating and are a common sight indoors, where cooler autumn conditions leave them wandering around the inside of the structures the nest is attached to before dying.
Hibernating queens overwinter in roof spaces, in outbuilding and in the hollows of trees etc. Once settled, they tuck in their legs and wings, before settling into hibernation.
By contrast the new queens continue to hunt for a short time before settling into a suitable hibernation site for the winter.
Pest Adviser with Bristol Pest Control – WaspKill UK