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When do wasps die off and what happens to the nest?

8 June 2022
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It's early June here in the UK and wasps are already visiting picnics and pub lunches. While individual wasps are really no more than just a nuisance an entire nest is a different story, particularly if it's located on your property.

Wasps' nests can house up to 10,000 wasps in extreme cases, while these concentrations of wasps are rare it's not unusual for nests to house between 3000-6000 inhabitants during the height of summer.

Seeing an increased number of wasps in your home and garden is a likely indicator of a nest nearby. Let's take a closer look at when wasps appear, how they build their nests and what you can do if you find a nest on your property.

When do waps die off?

Much like bees, wasps live on a diet of primary nectar but unlike bees, they do consume insects in their larval form. This means that as Summer ends and moves into Autumn, the amount of viable forage for wasps decreases.

Viable food sources for wasps include:

  • Nectar
  • Small Insects
  • Fruit
  • Honey
  • Artificial sugars produced by humans

Well aware of the lack of suitable resources a wasp colony will produce new queens and males to mate and ensure the continuation of the colony next year.

After mating, the queens will find a suitable spot to hibernate while the males die off after completing their primary role. Find out what happens if you kill a queen wasp in our short read.

When do wasps come out again in spring?

As winter comes to an end, hibernating queens start to emerge and seek out a suitable location for a new nest. You will normally see young wasp queens emerge around April but irregularly warm seasons can affect this.

Particularly warm winters can encourage queens to leave hibernation early, there is very little in terms of food for emerging queens early in spring and some queens can starve to death if they emerge too quickly.

After the queen has set about creating the foundations of a nest she will raise the first set of brood with worker wasps hatching in late April to early June. At this point, the queen focuses solely on reproduction letting the colony take charge of building and expanding the nest.

Where do waps make their nests?

Unlike other insects emerging from hibernation, wasps will never use the same nest two years in a row. If an area ticks all the boxes for a suitable nest you'll likely see old nests in and around the new nest indicating several years of use.

When assessing whether a location is suitable for a nest a queen will need to consider the following:

  • Is it easy to access
  • Does it have suitable forage and resources in the local area
  • Is it protected from severe weather

Locations you're likely to find a wasps nest

Wasps can make their nests in some of the strangest places. Some of the possible locations you might find a wasp nest include:

  • Loft spaces
  • Sheds
  • Window frames
  • Door frames
  • Garages
  • Fascias and guttering
  • Vehicles
  • Outbuildings
  • Wall cavities
  • Wardrobes and closed spaces

The majority of wasps' nests will be on the exterior of your property but they can occasionally take up residence inside your home and are particularly prevalent in roof spaces.

Examples of wasp nests that were left to run out of control.

What should you do if you find a wasps nest?

The sight of a wasps nest on or inside your property will likely be very alarming. Wasps can be aggressive when they feel threatened and this can lead to nasty stings if no action is taken to remedy the situation.

While some pests in the home can be removed using DIY methods when it comes to wasps I strongly recommend using a professional wasp removal service.

If you do choose to remove the nest yourself ensure you follow our simple tips below to stay safe:

  • Check for allergies to wasp stings, anyone allergic to wasps should avoid approaching the nest at all costs
  • Always remove your nest during the night, wasps are far less active when the sun disappears and their defences will be considerably decreased
  • Wear protective clothing that covers your whole body and don't leave any gaps for wasps to enter
  • Keep any pets or children well clear of the nest during the removal, wasps will attack anything close by when they feel threatened.

Avoid any of the following when removing a wasps nest yourself:

  • Removing from wall cavities or hard to access roof areas, don't run the risk of a serious injury through falling and always contact a professional removal service for nests in hard to reach locations
  • Never try to use fire to destroy a nest, the material wasps use to create their nest is highly flammable and this could lead to a fire risk
  • Avoid using light to illuminate the nest, this will agitate the inhabitants and warn them of your approach

The inner working of a wasps nest

Check out the short video below from Science Insider to see what a wasp nest looks like on the inside and how the nest is structured.

Are wasps nests dangerous?

While the structure of the nest poses very little risk to you or your family, its inhabitants do. So what makes wasps dangerous to humans:

  • Allergic reactions to wasps are common and can lead to a severe reaction in the form of anaphylactic shock, this requires immediate medical treatment and if left untreated can lead to death, while this only applies to approximately 0.5 of the population, it is something to be aware of.
  • When a wasp stings it releases an alarm pheromone indicating to other members of the colony that they are under attack. This can lead to a fast and vicious retaliation, even people who aren't allergic and experience severe medical complaints when experiencing multiple stings.
  • Getting stung in the neck or face can cause breathing difficulties, particularly in children and older adults.

How to identify which species reside in the nest

There are many different species of wasps and how they cat and build their nests can often help you identify which species you're dealing with.

  • Paper wasps construct nests with open hexagonal combs with a large stalk from which it hangs.
  • If wasps are present in large numbers and seem to be entering and exiting via the same whole you are likely dealing with a yellowjacket nest.
  • Hornets' nests are characterised by a slight point at the bottom and a single large opening, the exterior of the nest is composed of a thin paper-like substance. Inspecting the inhabitants will quickly confirm if you're dealing with hornets which are considerably larger than wasps, interestingly despite their reputation hornets are generally less aggressive than wasp colonies if unprovoked.

How long does a wasps nest last?

Wasps will only use a nest for one summer but if the location provides suitable resources and shelter it is likely they will construct next year's nest in the same area.

You can try to avoid this by blocking up any potential entry and removing access to resources by securing bins.

Will wasps just go away?

Yes, as autumn and eventually winter arrives the majority of the colony will die leaving the queen to hibernate over winter. During this period it is very unlikely you will see any wasps.

Do wasp nests die in winter?

Yes, wasps' nests will be completely uninhabited over the winter months.

At what temperature do wasps become inactive?

Wasps will stop taking flight for resources at temperatures below 50-53°F.

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