Frequently Asked Questions about Wasps and Hornets

How do wasps build their nests?

Wasps nests are made of a paper paste built with a mixture of wood fragments and saliva. The wood is collected by the wasps from neighboring garden sheds, logs, fences, etc., and the fibre is extracted from the wasp powerful mandibles. The resulting soft wood pulp is then shaped and added to the nest.

wasp nest in golf bag

Wasp Nest in a golf bag

Do wasps die out in the winter time?

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.

Do wasps come back to their nest each year?

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 the following years.

For how long do wasps live for? 

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. 

Do wasps have a queen?

Every wasp nest has a queen which 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. 

What do wasps eat?

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.

How many wasps are in a nest?

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.

What plants repel wasps and hornets?

Some plants such as eucalyptus, citronella, mint and wormwood are natural repellent to wasps. Try to introduce these beautiful plants in your garden and they will deter the wasps away.

Do wasps and hornets sting?

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.

Do wasps help with pollination?

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.

How big is the queen wasp?

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).

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