wasp walking across frost during winter

Where do wasps go in the winter?

As we head towards colder months and the temperatures begin to drop the amount of insect activity in your garden or wild area starts to dwindle. Bees set about preparing themselves for winter by huddling in nests or seeking cosy, protected spots to hibernate.

But what about their slightly less popular counterpart the wasp, where do wasps go in the winter and what mechanisms have they developed for dealing with the much colder temperatures winter has to offer?

What do wasps do during the winter?

For the purpose of this article, I will be detailing the lifecycles of Common and European wasps in the UK. It’s important to note that wasps in warmer climates deal with winter completely differently and when I’ve created an article detailing their behaviour I will link it below.

As temperatures drop below 50°F or 10°C wasps will stop taking flight for forage and resources. Weather in the UK is volatile so late Summer into Autumn will provide sporadic days of warmth that allow flight but consistency is rare.

When the majority of days drop below the wasp-required flight temperature it indicates a change in the nest’s behaviour, switching from growth and expansion to survival.

The queen will stop laying eggs and any remaining eggs are left to produce females set to become new queens and some male wasps to undertake mating flights.

The male wasps are easily distinguishable by their much larger, hairier elongated abdomen and lack of a sting. These late-blooming males are destined for a very short life and will die quickly after mating in early to mid-autumn.

Do all wasps survive the winter?

Unfortunately, the majority of a wasp colony will die during or shortly after the first frost of the winter. The reduction in temperatures and daylight hours means that lots of the resources they previously consumed like nectar and small insects are in short supply.

During this period the nest enters into an extended famine in which all of the worker wasps will eventually die of starvation. As the cold sets in, it begins to have an effect on the worker wasp’s central nervous system similar to that experienced by humans suffering from hypothermia.

This can cause disorientation and often leads to wasps mistaking light sources for the sun and entering homes by accident.

Unlike the worker wasps, there are a select number of female wasps that if all goes to plan will survive the winter months and emerge as new queens ready to seek out and construct new nests.

Check out our interesting read on where do bees go in the winter for more fascinating facts about bees.

What happens to new queens during the winter?

New queens that have left the nest in late Summer will hunt for a few days to gather the resources they need to survive the winter before seeking out a suitable spot to hibernate.

Queens will look for sheltered nooks and crevices in natural or man-made structures to start their hibernation process. Hibernating queens are easily identified by the proximity of the wings to the thorax. This response helps the wasp maintain her body heat for the duration of her long sleep.

Places wasps may hibernate over winter on your property include:

  • Loft spaces
  • Sheds
  • Window frames
  • Door frames
  • Bee bricks
  • Garages
  • Fascias and guttering
  • Bug hotels
  • Vehicles
  • Outbuildings
  • Wall cavities
  • Bee hotels
  • Wardrobes and closed spaces
Here we can see an example of a queen wasp that’s taking up residence in a bee hotel

Find out what happens if a queen wasp dies and the catastrophic effects it can have on the rest of the nest’s inhabitants.

When do wasps reemerge in spring?

When spring arrives and temperatures start to rise hibernating queens will begin to emerge and seek out potential new nest sites to start their new colony.

While wasps won’t use the same nest twice they will happily construct a new nest alongside the previous so if you experience wasps on your property there is a high chance they will return the following year.

Find out more about when wasps die off and what happens to their nest in our fascinating short read.

How to deal with wasps in your home or on your property

If you have a nest located inside or close to your property it’s a valid reason for concern. While wasps aren’t overly aggressive they will sting if they feel they or the colony is being threatened.

We strongly recommend contacting a professional to remove any nest at your home. While a single wasp sting isn’t going to kill you multiple stings can have a severe effect on your respiratory system and people with allergies run the risk of anaphylactic shock.

Now we’ve answered where do wasps go in winter check out our other articles about the insects in your garden.

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