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Are Wasps Attracted to Light?

Last Updated: 29.05.20

 

In case you encounter issues with wasps, a yellow jacket trap can prove to be quite helpful. Wasps are interesting insects once you get to know more and more about them. For example, did you know that there are many species of wasps, and some of them happen to be nocturnal?

Spending your evenings on the porch after a long day’s work can be very relaxing. However, your moment can be disturbed by insects hitting the light bulb over and over again. There are many flying insects that are attracted to light. Are wasps also attracted to this?

 

Nocturnal Behavior

The common image of a wasp is a black and yellow striped menace with a painful sting. It is true that many wasps fit this description but there are thousands of others with different shapes, sizes, colors, as well as behaviors, including wasps which fly at night.

Some of the nocturnal wasps are parasitic, meaning that they lay their eggs on or near night-feeding caterpillars or other hosts. There are others looking for nocturnal insects like moths and crickets to feed to their young larvae. Common species of wasps that fly at night include European hornets, wasps from the Apoica genus, the Ichneumonidae and Brachonidae families.

 

Insect Night Vision Explained

Usually, insects have compound eyes made from several individual parts which are called ommatidia. There are many species that have three small distinct visual organs that are called ocelli, on the top of their head.

The nocturnal species, on the other hand, have adaptations in their compound eyes and ocelli which enable them to see and fly at night.

 

 

Wasps That Fly at Night

Vespidae is a large and widely distributed group of common, social wasps. They create papery nests for their young. Different from other vespid wasps such as yellow jackets or hornets, the European hornet or Vespa crabro can fly at night.

These wasps search for grasshoppers and other insects, or ripe fruit in order to feed their young. This species is around one-inch long and reddish-brown coloring on its upper body and head. Thanks to its large body size as well as big eyes, European hornets do not require any special adaptations which other nocturnal insects have in order to be able to see at night.

The Apoica wasps are also a part of the Vespidae family that display a true nocturnal behavior. These insects gather around their nest entrance during the day in order to protect the larvae inside from other predatory insects. Thanks to the adaptations in their ocelli, these wasps can forage for food at night.

The ichneumonid wasps have slender bodies and sometimes very long egg-laying organs that are called ovipositors. That is why they might seem threatening. However, most species do not sting. These are parasitic wasps that vary in size, pattern, and color, depending on the species.

They are parasitic because adults lay their eggs onto a host insect which is often a spider or a caterpillar, and the larvae will feed on the host. There are several species from this group that are nocturnal.

Braconid wasps are typically brown or black in color. They are parasites of many insects, especially the larvae of butterflies and moths. There are several species from this group that are attracted to light while they are searching for hosts at night. They have enlarged eyes and ocelli which assist them in their nocturnal foraging.

 

Attraction to Light

Both bees and wasps are attracted to light, which can include even a porch light if they are out of the hive when it is illuminated. Although bees are not nocturnal insects, in case a predator disturbs their hive, they might come out and head for the porch light.

Anyway, wasps are the ones that tend to fly later in the evening than bees, so the insects buzzing around the light are more likely to be wasps.

 

What Attracts Wasps to Your Property?

Since we established that only some of the wasp species are nocturnal, chances are you will rarely see wasps buzzing around your light bulb. If this happens often, you might have a nest nearby. There are other things that might attract these insects to your property. Let us see what!

One of the reasons why your house might be visited by wasps is their search for a warm and safe haven. After the males die off in the fall after they have impregnated the nearby queens, these queen wasps look for a protected place to spend the cold season.

Therefore, your home’s insulated walls, as well as hidden cracks, cavities, and crevices, create an ideal living environment. Social wasps such as yellow jackets tend to be more prevalent in hollows in or near the ground. This means that you may find these insects making a nest underneath your house or in the foundation.

As winter passes and the weather becomes warmer, the queens emerge from hibernation and start looking for food. This explains why wasps approach your home in the summer months. When you see a wasp flying low to the ground, she is probably preying on insects, larvae, or grubs in the soil. They are called digger wasps and it is recommended to leave them alone.

These insects are also looking for sugar in the form of spilled food or drinks, fallen fruit, or aphid honeydew. The cicada killer wasp searches for cicada’s eggs. They are not as frightening as their name would suggest, as they are not aggressive and primarily prey on cicadas.

 

 

Both solitary and social wasps eat other insects which can include flies, aphids, caterpillars, or Japanese beetles, but also garbage left by homeowners, as well as meat or other foods left outside the house. You should also note that wasps are attracted to fragrant flowers.

Wasps feed on both protein-based and sweet foods but their preference for each depends on the time of the year. In the hot season, these insects look for protein-based foods such as scraps of meat. If you enjoy a summer barbecue with your family, make sure you remove all the leftovers and pieces of meat that might attract wasps.

In the colder season, these creatures seek sweeter foods like fruits, fruit juices, or sodas. It is during this time that wasps are more aggressive in finding the food they want. If you have fruit trees in your yard, it is best to pick up any fallen fruits fast, if you want to avoid wasps paying you a visit. Also, make sure to remove any leftover soda glasses or cans outside.

 

Conclusion

Although there are some species of wasps that are attracted to light, this is not a thing that should concern you. In case you notice wasps buzzing around your home at night, it is possible that there is a nest near your house.

However, it is not the lights that actually attract these insects to your property. While there are things you cannot change regarding your house that can make a great place for a wasp nest, there are other things you can do in order to avoid these visits, as explained earlier.

 

 

 

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