Wasp nests are made of a paper paste built with a mixture of wood fragments and saliva. The wood is collected by the wasps from neighbouring garden sheds, logs, fences, etc., and the fibre is extracted from the wasp's powerful mandibles. The resulting softwood pulp is then shaped and added to the nest.
In Ireland, all worker wasps die off in winter, generally from the beginning of December. Nevertheless, towards the end of the season, the nest produces several queen wasps that survive the winter by hibernating. The hibernation takes place inside the old nest or nearby in a sheltered location. The following April/May surviving queen wasps wake up from hibernation and start building up new nests.
No. New queen wasps never reuse an existing nest. They build a brand new nest in spring, but it is common to have this new nest adjacent to an old one (in Dublin we regularly find up to 6 wasp nests in a single attic). If an old nest fills a gap in the eaves or a cavity wall, it may be a good strategy to leave it so there is no room for a new nest in the following years.
Worker wasps, which are sterile females, live for 12 to 22 days. Fertile males (or drones) live for a few more days. Finally, queen wasps have a lifespan of approx. 12 months.
Every wasp nest has a queen who lay eggs. Worker wasps (females) may also lay eggs but they are not fertile and only produce male wasps. After the first group of adults has emerged, they assume the building of the nest and also care for the larvae and fetch food for the colony.
Wasps feed from a wide assortment of insects, both adults and larvae. The social wasps found in Ireland are omnivorous, sustaining on dead insects but also on fallen fruits and nectar.
Wasp nests in Ireland contain between 3000 and 6000 wasps for the largest nests. What limits the expansion of the nest is not the cold weather killing the wasps but the scarcity of food as winter begins.
Some plants such as eucalyptus, citronella, mint and wormwood are naturally repellent to wasps. Try to introduce these beautiful plants in your garden and they will deter the wasps away.
Contrary to honey bees, hornets and wasps can sting several times and do not die after stinging. So if you get stung make sure you leave the area rapidly. Humans are more sensitive to hornet stings than wasps stings because their venom contains more acetylcholine. Despite their bad publicity, wasps provide very important ecological services, which include predation and parasitism of other insects and larvae.
Wasps look like honey bees but are not covered with fluffy hairs. Thus, pollen does not adhere as well to their bodies when moving from flower to flower and they are far less efficient at pollinating.
Some species of queen wasps can achieve lengths of more than 1.5 inches, but in Ireland, common wasps are much smaller. Adult workers measure 12 to 17mm and the queen is slightly bigger (around 20mm).
Queen German wasp resting
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