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Wasps – Buzz Off!!!

wasp, insects
21 Mar

It’s that time of year again. The sun is finally making an appearance and so we all head for the garden to enjoy the summer weather. But so often our enjoyment is marred by one of the most loathsome and intimidating of pests – the wasp. In spring wasps are more attracted to protein foods and are a gardener’s best friend, depleting stocks of grubs and garden pests. Nest building starts in Spring. The queen wasp who has been overwintering will emerge to find a suitable site. She is solely responsible for the initial building stage. She strips wood and sometimes old cardboard which she chews and shreds mixing it with saliva and wax to form the building material for the nest. She lays her eggs and once these emerge as adult wasps, they take over the maintenance and expansion of the nest. These worker wasps are all unfertilized females who are sterile. They bring insects to the larvae in the nest and feed off the sugary by-products produced by the larvae. By this stage the queen becomes an egg laying machine and this remains her sole purpose. Later she will lay more unfertilized eggs which she can fertilise if she chooses. These will become the male wasps or drones. Later still, fertilised eggs will be laid who are the future queen wasps. As summer progresses the larvae all develop into adult wasps eliminating the food source for the worker wasps. It is at this stage that they become public enemy number one, obsessed with replacing the larva food by our sugary food, drinks, sauces and fruit.

Dealing with the odd worker wasp hovering around our barbecue is one thing, but if you are unlucky enough to have your home chosen as a site for a nest, that is a different ball game. It will be obvious if you have a nest – there will be an unusual amount of wasps harrassing you and if you watch you will soon see a relentless number of wasps entering and leaving the nest, usually under the roof eaves or behind fascias. Wasps like attics because they are warm and invariably undisturbed, but they can build nests inside the house itself. They are also known to favour compost heaps, bird boxes, children’s playhouses, holes in trees and under patios.

Wasps do not swarm like bees, so if you see a mass of wasps on a tree or wall, they are more likely to be honey bees. If you are not sure if you have a wasp or bee nest, a clue is in the behaviour. Honey bees will swarm around the entrance in great numbers whereas wasps will not. They will enter the nest with purpose and be gone. If the bee nest is visible, the difference is obvious as the nest is made of wax and the honeycomb is easy to see.Bees are not protected by law, but they are so vital to our biodiversity that if you discover a nest, a call to a local beekeeper will usually be met with enthusiasm. If you find a bee nest in an inaccessible place the only option is to destroy it in the same way as a wasp nest.
There is a species of bee called a mining bee that builds its nest by burrowing into the ground. Mining bees are grey, have no sting and are harmless and they will be gone in a matter of weeks. A hornet’s nest is bigger than a wasp’s nest, with a bigger opening and the cells inside are often visible. There will be fewer hornets than wasps in a nest

Common wasp or German wasp?

Common wasps (Vespa Vulgaris) usually build their nests inside somewhere like a roof space, shed, air brick or in disused rabbit burrows. The German wasp (Vesula Germanica) is slightly larger and builds its nest in trees, hedges and bushes. The nest resembles a grey football.

Wasps will live from spring until autumn. Once the adults have emerged from the nest and the drones have mated with the new queens they will die as their food source dries up. The queen will also die before her second winter. Wasps will not return to a nest the following year, although if the location is prime they may build another in the same place, even adjoining the old nest. Once a nest is empty, it is a good idea to block any gaps in the roof space or fascia to prevent them gaining entry the following year. Old nests can be left where they are, but bear in mind that they offer harbourage to other pests such as carpet beetle and stored product beetles

So how to deal with the unwanted nest

If the nest is outside and easy to reach a spray will do the job nicely. Digrain Wasp and Hornet Nest Destroyer is ideal. It has a powerful blast meaning you don’t have to get too close to the nest, but because of this it should be used in a well-ventilated space. If the nest is in your loft space then an insecticide containing bendiocarb would be a better option. With the use of a duster applicator a powder such as Deadline Insectaban Powder can be puffed into the entrance of the nest. This is all that is needed for the wasps to ‘tread’ the powder through the nest thereby infecting the whole colony. Be vigilant however. A large nest of aggressive wasps is a formidable opponent. Wear protection in the form of a bee veil, gloves and an overall and have an escape route planned if you are in an enclosed space. If you also have bats in your loft they are a protected species and you will probably have to leave the wasp nest untreated in order to protect the bats. If the nest is in a chimney, a smoke bomb is probably the best form of treatment. Should you have any doubts, call in a professional.

After treatment, it would be advisable to stay away from the site for a day. By this time the nest should be inactive. Any larvae that are left will die off
Finally, do not be tempted to burn the nest. You will agitate the residents and those that are away from the nest will not be killed. Under no circumstances block the hole to a nest. The wasps inside will find a way out and it will be into your house.

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