This is now our fifth post on the subject of bees and wasps and we hope you have found the series useful, informative and helpful. In this our final posting on the subject, we take a look at the life cycle of wasps and offer an insight into how these insects behave.
Perhaps it is best to write this posting in some sort of chronological order, so we will start with the outset of the year.
The very beginning of the year and main winter months are quiet and tend to be wasp free zones. That said, there have been cases of wasps nest surviving long into the winter if the conditions are favourable with gigantic nests forming by this time. Some Queen wasps do die over the winter, but against popular belief, this is not necessarily due to cold weather. The main reasons are being hunted by predators or coming out of hibernation too early meaning limited food is available. Generally speaking wasp activity starts in the early spring when the days are longer and slightly warmer. Queen wasps will emerge from hibernation where they have spent the winter sleeping. During this time the Queens will look for a suitable place to house their nest and this tends to be all the wasp activity that happens at this point.
As the spring continues and the Queen finds a suitable place, she will begin to make the nest by chewing material (particularly wood) and saliva to make a waxy substance. We have touched on this in previous articles. The nest continues to be constructed and the queen will then start to lay eggs. Once these have hatched (called larvae at this point) they are feed a protein rich diet which rapidly makes them mature. Once matured these become adult worker wasps. All off these are female. Some adult female wasps can lay eggs, but these only produce drone male wasps. The adult worker wasps then continue to build the nest and gather food, which allows the queen to focus on nest preservation and continuing to lay eggs.
As the summer progresses the nest will reach full capacity and the Queen will lay ‘special’ new Queen eggs and drone eggs.
Many nests produce hundreds of these. Once these special eggs have hatched, the new Queens and drones will fly off to mate.
After mating the male drone wasps die, while the new queens find a new hiding place in an attempt to hibernate and survive over the coming winter.
As early autumn approaches many of us are aware of the apparent increase in nuisance of wasp behaviour. Once all the young have been created there is no sugary substance to in turn feed the adults.
This is when wasps leave the nest in search of sugary substances, and are liable to interfere with humans drinking or eating. This is also when wasps can be at their most aggressive.
As the days gets shorter, colder and food sources continue to dwindle, the old queens and all the worker wasps will die, so only the new queens remain to start the cycle again the following year. As mentioned above, wasps’ nests can survive longer on some occasions.
We know that weather patterns and climate affect the outdoors, and as these change are due to suspected global warming, it is interesting to see how differences in the usual cycle can become evident. This will be one to watch over the coming years both in relation to wasps and nature generally.
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