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Do Wasps Have a Queen?

Last Updated: 23.02.20

 

In case you want to find out more about wasp traps, you can read about this topic in one of our recent articles. However, before you decide to set up traps, it is also important to know a few things about these interesting creatures.

For example, in our constant research, we encountered the following question: do wasps have a queen? A very simple answer would be yes. Still, it is very interesting to dive more into this subject and find a lot more interesting things about these fascinating creatures.

 

A Wasp Colony

A colony of social wasps has a very clear caste system. First, there are the queens which are fertile females that lay eggs. The drones are fertile males that mate with the future queens.

In a wasp colony, there are also the workers which are infertile females doing the labor of the nest and also defending their nests with their stings. Fertile female workers also exist, but the eggs they lay are usually destroyed by the queen.

 

Becoming a Queen Wasp

In order to get a queen in a wasp nest, you need fertilized eggs. These eggs usually contain female wasps that will become the workers in the colony. In a wasp nest, there is always at least one queen, which chooses the females that will be turned into new queens.

When the selection is done, the queen wasp begins a complex process of very special care for these wasps. The exact process of turning specific normal wasps into queens is a debated topic but there are some scientists who state that there is a certain hormone that the queen gives to the chosen wasps.

 

 

The insects which were offered special care, grow differently and faster than the others, finally turning into the new queens of the colony. The queen usually resembles the workers at almost 100% and it can be rather hard to identify. Still, there are wasp species such as yellow jackets where the queen is longer than the workers, and she can be noticed easily.

The difference in length between a queen and the workers is about 0.64 cm. Similar diversity in the size can be observed in other insect species such as honeybees or ants. Another difference is the lower abdomen which is pointed compared to that of a normal wasp. Insects of this kind are usually omnivorous and reach a length of a maximum of 2.5 – 3.8 cm.

 

Hibernation

During the winter, wasp queens search for narrow places to shelter themselves. Such a place should protect them from low temperatures but from humidity and predators as well. Holes and crevices into walls of buildings usually provide good shelter for these insects.

Still, no matter how well they hide, many wasp queens die during the winter. This happens because they become victims of other animals, usually spiders, who hide in the same places where the queens hibernate.

Warm winters are another major threat to these creatures. If they wake up too early, there is no food for them so starvation wipes them out quite fast.

On the other side, the majority of the wasp colony does not hibernate during the winter. Normal wasps usually get wiped out during the cold season by the lack of food and starvation. Only the queens that are sexually mature can go through a hibernation process successfully, provided the temperatures are low enough all throughout the season.

Queen wasps begin their new year as soon as the winter ends. The warmer temperatures specific to the beginning of spring usually wake these insects from their hibernation. Then, they will start looking for a good place for their nest and work on building it.

 

Feeding

Depending on the time of the year, a queen wasp can feed on various things. At the beginning of spring, for example, they are very dependent on nectar, which is also the only adequate food for the time.

Usually, the menu of a queen wasp consists of insects, arachnids, fallen fruit, and larvae of other insects, mostly from the Hymenoptera family.

By comparison, the diet of a normal wasp is quite different. It is only the adult workers that use flower nectar in the late spring, as for the rest of the wasps in the colony, they will not take part in the pollination process at all. Most of the time, adult wasps spend their time searching for food for their young.

The food-seeking wasps kill other insects as well as small arachnids, like spiders, and feed their young, thus ensuring the survival of the species. There are some wasp species that also feed on fallen fruits and dead insects as well. Adult male wasps almost never fly to flowers for nectar, unless there is no other available food source around.

 

Building the Nest

Building the nest starts as soon as the winter ends and the queen gets out of hibernation. Once the perfect place is found, the queens start gathering the materials they require in order to build their nests.

Usually, they use a mix of wax, chewed fabric like wood or synthetic material, and saliva. First, they need to find something that is firm and stable to which the nest can be attached. That is why many wasp nests are being built under the roofs of houses, inside sheds, garages, or bird boxes.

Once the nest is ready, the queens lay their eggs and immediately start searching for food to nourish their larvae. The food for larvae is rich in protein because this speeds up their growth and contributes to a healthy colony.

The normal wasps do not just stay and watch how the queen does all the work. They have their own tasks. One of these activities is hunting. They go out for prey, hunting for insects, but they also infiltrate and steal from other wasps. Each colony has to care for the offspring, and so they do whatever it is required in order to ensure their survival.

 

 

Queen Sting vs. Normal Wasp Sting

Perhaps you are wondering if a queen’s sting is more dangerous or painful than that of a normal wasp. Actually, it is not! It is true that the anatomy of the queen sting is a little different, mostly by its size, since these insects are bigger.

Insects such as bees, wasps, or hornets usually sting in self-defense or when their nests and queens are threatened. If you get too close to a wasp nest, you might get attacked, so it is best to maintain a safe distance.

If we are to microscopically analyze a queen wasp’s sting, there are two small barbs in the tip, and each has a very important and specific purpose. The first one has the role of stabilizing the victim so that the second barb can get in easily and with precision.

As soon as a victim is immobilized by the first barb, the second one releases the venom that completely paralyzes the stung victim. If we are to look at a queen’s stinger with the naked eye, we would see a smooth surface similar to a needle.

Indeed, wasps are more dangerous than bees because they do not die after they sting. Their stinger retracts into their bodies, and they can sting repeatedly if they feel that threatened.

 

 

 

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