waspWasps (Vespula vulgaris) are beneficial garden insects, collecting insects and larvae etc. to feed to developing wasp larvae in the nest during the summer months. Worker wasps will feed on a variety of foods including fruits such as apples, pears and plums. They collect wood to construct nests and may therefore damage the wooden fences and garden furniture.

By the end of the summer, the queen wasp stops laying eggs and the workers no longer need to collect food for the young in the nest. They become free to search for sweet things such as cakes or sweets and therefore can become a nuisance.

It is the ability of wasps to cause painful stings that concerns people most.

People’s reactions to wasp stings can vary considerably from intense pain and swelling round the area of the sting, to a severe allergic reaction (known as anaphylactic shock) which can be life threatening.

Life cycle

The queen wasp lays eggs in the nest and hatch into larvae within a few days. 4-6 weeks after the eggs are laid the first generation of workers emerge. These are female wasps and are smaller than the queens and take over responsibility for maintaining the nest and finding food, in particular high protein foodstuffs for the larvae such as flies, caterpillars, or spiders.

The queen then devotes all her time to laying eggs and by the end of the summer the nest may contain 20,000 or more wasps. In the autumn the new queens and males produced from the nest mate and the fertilised queens search for hibernation sites. With the onset of winter weather the nests die out and are never reused

Home treatment

Treating wasps nest can be very dangerous. For this reason professional treatment is always advised. If you do try to treat wasp nests yourself wear ‘bee keeper’ type protective clothing to prevent being stung.

Nests can be found by looking for signs of wasp activity on fine days. You can find the position of the nest by looking for foraging wasps flying either towards or away from a nest.

Nests should only be treated with insecticides when activity around the nest is quiet, ideally in the late evening before dusk

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