Interesting facts about wasps
Wasps are incredible creatures with a diversity of recognised species (from solitary to social) that are often misunderstood. Here are some fascinating insights into the lives of these insects:
- There is a vast array of wasp species around the world. Many types are social, living in large colonies, with a social hierarchy, whilst others live solitary lives. The two most often found in the UK are the Common wasp and the German wasp.
- Social wasps can be incredibly social, creating colonies of quite a size. The average wasp colony may contain between 4,000 to 6,000 individual wasps at the height of summer. There have been some recorded colonies of up to 20,000 wasps.
- Social wasps will build a new nest each year. Each nest contains a breeding female (the queen) who starts to build the nest in early spring, from chewed wood pulp and saliva. She initially lays a small number of eggs which become grubs and eventually worker wasps. These workers then enlarge the nest and help the queen rear more young wasps.
- Only female wasps sting. The stinger is a modified egg-laying tube which is connected to a venom sac. A wasp can sting repeatedly because it can easily withdraw the stinger using its strong abdomen muscles. A wasp sting works in a similar way to a hypodermic needle.
- Despite their bright ‘warning colours’, wasps are a food source for birds such as warblers, bluebirds and house wrens. Bats, hedgehogs, badgers and some reptiles will also happily feed on them.
- During spring and early summer wasps are beneficial to our ecosystem (as well as farmers and gardeners).They diligently hunt caterpillars, aphids, houseflies, greenflies, grasshoppers and other insects to feed their young. It is only towards autumn when the workers no longer have young grubs to feed that they turn their attention to sweeter food sources. This is when you will find them feeding on fallen fruits, sugary drinks, jam sandwiches and iced buns!
- Wasps along with bees and other garden insects are an integral part of our ecosystem. If you have a nest in the garden, which is not close to your home and is not causing an immediate problem it is better to leave it well alone. Once the colder autumn weather arrives the worker wasps will eventually die and the queen wasp is unlikely to use the same nest next spring.