When do wasps die off
Coming to the end of the summer brings a kind of sweaty melancholy to the population, as we all realise how quickly the year is passing us by.
The one thing we’re not sad about leaving behind is swatting wasps away from our pints, as the wasps either die or hibernate.
But wasps are pollinators and very useful to the animal eco-system so don’t be too sad they’re gone.
There’s no specific date when all wasps die off but it generally coincides with a cold snap or when the weather turns cold naturally with the seasons.
It’s the cold in combination with a dwindling food supply that will cause the deaths.
Both male and female worker wasps will die but the queen wasp is the exception.
Queen wasps are the only ones who hibernate, which means they are the only ones who have a chance to survive the winter.
But most hibernating queens will die.
Some will die when because they are found by predators such as spiders. Also, if the winter is warm, some queens struggle to hibernate and death from starvation could happen.
Similar to a bee colony, the queen wasp is also the only one in the nest who can lay fertilised eggs.
There are three ‘types’ of wasp in each nest – the worker, the drone and the queen.
Workers are infertile female worker wasps, drones are fertile male wasps which have no sting and the queens which are the fertile females.
The average nest will produce around 12,000 worker wasps and between 1,000 and 2,000 queens a season.
How a wasp becomes a queen and how a female is selected/fights to become a queen wasp has been the topic of debate with researchers.
There is no absolute definite answer but in most species of wasp, queen wasps are bigger, though this is because they are given much more food during the larval stage.
And this has a large impact. The queen has a lifespan of around 12 months compared to an average wasp lifespan of around 20 days.
This means that wasps actually die throughout the year, though between 100 and 150 eggs a day laid by the queen wasp replenish the population
Wasp nests will now (September is the point where this starts happening on average) slow down activity and become inactive as the wasps die off without the population being replenished.
The new queen or queens will hibernate as the old queen from the year before lives her last days as the winter draws in.
As the weather warms in the spring, the hibernating wasps finally wake after their hibernation.
The queens that survived the winter will start building new nests.
When the nest is structurally sound and tucked away the queen will start to lay eggs in the nest’s cells.
Soon, the eggs will hatch and there will be a whole other wave of wasps for you to swat off next summer.
The reason that wasps are only really seen in mid and late summer is, it is thought, that the numbers of wasps increase and most of the early worker wasps spend the early part of the year eating aphids and other small insects.
It is only when those sources of food are gone that they look for picnics or further afield.