Wasps In The Spring
Wasps, like all insects, are subject to a life cycle, and it could be said that the wasp nest has a life cycle all of its own that starts after a long winter sleep.
In the UK most wasp and hornets nests start and end April and September, but this can vary depending on the prevailing climate.
In 2018 we experienced record temperatures meaning that many nests were still going strong well into November.
So you can see that nature uses it’s random, climatic opportunities to its advantage.
Wasps like the median wasp have quite small colonies compared to the Common or European wasps and it’s been seen that once their nest reaches about the size of a football, nest construction stops, and the nest matures.
Once the nest hits that magic, unknown maturity peak, 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, but appears to be sensitive to the climate because in 2010 they were very common and in 2011 they almost disappeared!
The Common and European wasps have the capacity to produce massive 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 spiralling 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.
The Wasps Nest Matures
As the year draws to a close the temperature and prevailing conditions begin to make a wasps life increasingly difficult, signalling the start of the nest’s wintery end.
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 die 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.
By contrast, the new queens continue to hunt for a short time before settling into a suitable hibernation site for the winter.
Queens that mature early in the year will go on to create new nests in the same calendar year and perish as winter tightens its grip, but for those that mature late in the year, a long hibernation is in store
As seen in the image below, the queen wasp will settle down into hibernation, with her wings set tight to her body.
Do Wasps Hibernate In Houses?
Yes. Wasps regularly hibernate in houses and homes of all kinds. Checking your loft for overwintering wasps in March and March can help you avoid a new nest in the coming year.
Popular nest sites include sheds, garages, extension roofs, lofts and attics, wood piles, rodent burrows and many more.
Why Do We Get Wasps In The House In The Autumn?
What we regularly encounter between September and December is the phenomena of wasps entering homes form beneath floors, through holes in walls and ceilings and also down chimneys.
As the temperatures consistently fall below 10C the wasps remaining in the nest at the end of the year become increasingly disorientated by the effect of cold wintery conditions on their central nervous system, similar to that of hypothermia in humans.
A significant lack of available food from both external sources, e.g. insects and fruit etc and from larvae in the colony compounds this disorientation and decline towards death.
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 its actually a bulb in someone’s bedroom.
In the UK, the wasp control season begins in May and runs until wasp activity ends. This means most pest controllers are very switched on to wasp activity from one year to the next.
The busiest months for control are June, July and August. As nests mature, wasps become more aggressive and unpredictable.
The danger for wasps is a mild autumn in which we have a sudden fall in temperatures. This can wipe out a large proportion of wasps before they have the chance to hibernate. A catastrophic event.
In 2010 in the UK we experienced a sudden and early winter blast in December. Needless to say in 2011 and 2012, wasps were rather scarce.
2011 was one of the coolest and dryest on record. 2012 was the wettest on record. This disruption means that no matter how clever you are – you can never predict with certainty how and when wasps will begin or end hibernation.