Did you know that wasp nests are not reused each year? Have you wondered when wasps start to nest and when they disappear and why? Here we answer your questions by explaining the life cycle of a wasp!
Stage 1: Hibernation
This takes place from around the end of September to the end of the following April and is the period where large numbers of wasps die from starvation (not the low temperatures).
Only a few queens will survive to establish new colonies. If the queen has been sheltering inside a house, her reappearance can prompt homeowners to call exterminators, thinking there is a nest in their home. This is usually not the case.
Stage 2: Awaking of the queen
When the weather starts to get warmer, the queen wasps which survive hibernation wake up. In the spring, the only source of food is nectar from plants and flowers, thus wasps play a vital role in plant pollination.
Stage 3: Nest building
This takes place from the end of April to around the end of May. This is when the queen feeds herself, looks for a good location and starts building her nest.
The queen gathers building material by stripping wood from fence panels, sheds and even garden furniture. A paste is made to construct the nest by chewing the wood. The queen creates a centre stalk called a petiole which she then covers in a chemical to repel ants from the nest. Cells are added around the petiole, ready for eggs to be laid.
Stage 4: Colony building
This takes place from the end of May to the end of September and is the main period when the nest grows.
The queen lays eggs one by one in the cells of her new nest. Once the eggs hatch into larvae, she feeds them with protein rich food from the insects that she feeds on. The larvae spin a silk cap over the top of their cell before they pupate into an adult wasp. By July, worker wasps take over the duty of nest building, collecting food and feeding the larvae so that they queen can continue laying eggs.
As the worker wasps collect more material for the nest, the queen is busy laying up to 100 eggs each day. This means that a typical nest can be home to over 20,000 wasps!
Stage 5: Moving on
Around August, at the end of summer, the wasp nest reaches its maximum size.
At this stage, the queen lays queen eggs and drone eggs with the potential to have up to 1500 new queens in each nest.
The original queen wasp’s job is now complete, and the responsibility is handed over to the new queens and male drones where they leave their nests and make their way to mating areas. Nests
Now the winter is on the horizon, the newly fertilised queens find somewhere to hibernate.
Stage 5: The end of the wasp nest
As the autumn draws in, in September, the remaining worker wasps can no longer feed on the sugar solution provided by the larvae, this means that they must look outside of the nest for food.
You often see a lot of wasps during September in beer gardens etc, as worker wasps search for sugar.
As the winter approaches, all the worker wasp’s food diminishes and all but the new hibernating queens die. The nest is no longer used.
As we emerge into the spring, the whole process starts again.