Wasps, and more particularly the social wasp, are mainly known for their nuisance value, particularly in the autumn. The combination of the cooler weather and a diet of fermenting fruit juices makes them irritable, and therefore more likely to sting
There are several species of social wasp found in this country, but all are similar in appearance. They are all bright yellow and black, about 10 - 20 mm in length, except for the hornet which is somewhat larger and brown and yellow in colour.
There are several methods for the control and eradication of wasp nests, these include specialist chemicals, and methods available to the public i.e. wasp nest destroyers in the form of aerosol sprays. If used these should be applied late evening and in compliance with written directions on the product.
If you intend treating the nest yourself:
Read the instructions and label on use of the insecticide.
Follow the instructions.
Wear gloves, long sleeves, goggles, plus any other protective equipment recommended.
If the nest is at a high level, use a safe set of steps. Do not use a stool or chair.
Only treat when activity at the nest is at a minimum, i.e. cool of evening.
If the nest is inaccessible, or you are allergic to wasp stings, or unable to handle instructions, please contact us for help and guidance.
There is no need to kill every wasp you see. In the summer they perform the useful task of killing hundreds of other insects that are themselves a problem in the home and garden. So if wasps are tolerable, leave them alone. On the other hand, if you are being pestered by dozens of wasps daily then there is probably a colony nearby that you may wish to destroy.
"The wasps I had last year have returned again".
The only wasps which can survive the winter are the young fertilised queens. All others are killed off. Wasps never return to the same nest, a new nest is built each year.
"I think I've got a wasp nest, they are early this year".
A queen will emerge from her winter hibernation around mid-April, and find a suitable site for her new nest. By mid to late April, she may have chosen a site and started to form the basis of a nest, this will however only contain the queen. Many reported wasp nest sightings at this time of year are actually 'Masonry Bees'. These bees resemble wasps but only have a life cycle of approximately 6 weeks. The are do not pose a danger to humans in the way wasps do as their sting is not strong enough to penetrate the skin.
The fertilised queen wasp emerges from hibernation around mid-April and searches for a suitable site. From chewed bark and dried timber, mixed with saliva, an initial cell is built. This is about the size of a golf ball.
Please note that it is pointless destroying the nest until a colony is established and this usually occurs sometime in June. The queen may abandon the nest or be killed by a drop in temperature which will result in the nest being destroyed.
The queen lays between 10 and 20 eggs and this first brood of sterile worker bees start enlarging the nest and providing food for the subsequent eggs. Ultimately by late summer the normal wasp nests will contain from 3,000 to 5,000 individuals and be up to 30cm across.
With the onset of cooler weather, the workers and mates may become tired and their feeding on ripe fruit can produce a "tipsy" behaviour, leading to aggression towards anyone interfering with them. The cold winter weather kills off all the workers and males and only the queen survives.
The rash or individual 'spot' is usually itchy and may become inflamed and swell. Some people are strongly allergic to stings and can become very ill. If there is any shortness of breath, dial 999. Scratching can infect bites.
Although itchy and sometimes painful, stings are rarely dangerous and need only some antihistamine or local anaesthetic cream from your pharmacist. The redness and swelling are usually due to the allergy rather than an infection, a cold compress is usually effective to control redness.
Call your doctor if the symptoms will not go away or if you are stung in the mouth, around the throat or receive multiple stings.