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The Fascinating Life of Wasps and How They Can Be Harmful

Last Updated: 16.04.24


Wasps are among the insects with the most interesting social life, but many people are afraid of them because they have a painful sting. When going camping, wasps are transformed into a fearful enemy so it is best to provide your tent with special protection for insects and, also, a cool piece of advice is to have good camper insulation.


Everybody thinks that humans, because they are the most evolved species on Earth, are the most evolved when it comes to their social life. But if you look at the life of ants, bees, and wasps, you will be surprised to notice that we are not that special and that some other creatures have an interesting social arrangement and hierarchy.

The problem is that wasps are not as friendly as ants or bees and that is why some types of wasps are considered pests. In this article, we are going to talk about the fascinating social arrangements of wasps, about their behavior and also about the reason why they are considered pests and how much damage they can do.


What are wasps?

Many people think that bees and wasps are the same insect species, but they are a lot different from each other. Even if they are both capable of stinging people, the wasp doesn’t die afterward, as the bee does. The queen usually hibernates, so the colony’s life can be prolonged for years to come.

Wasps usually live in nests or colonies. Inside their social structure, there is a queen that lays eggs and, surrounding her, there are wasps that are called workers. Their role is to protect the colony and to care for the larvae. They also bring food resources to the nest.

In a lot of countries around the world, especially in temperate regions, colony wasps are considered pests. A lot of research has been done about how to keep them under control and authorities have different strategies, and, later in this article, we are going to talk about how much damage they can do.

Wasps do not collect pollen and, unlike bees, they don’t store food inside their nest. They build their nests from wood pulp and similar materials and, contrary to popular belief, they don’t make honey. Ther mouth is specially constructed to chew their food.



The colony

Wasps usually build their nests in warm spaces and choose sunny places, but they can also build them in attics, walls, and roofs. A nest can produce up to 13,000 worker wasps and 2,000 queens every season. You never knew there were so many, did you?

Because queens hibernate, they have to store a lot of fat to be able to survive during the winter. This and the fact that they have to carry a lot of eggs are the reasons why the queens are a lot bigger than worker wasps. Even as larvae, queens are treated preferentially and are given twice the food a worker larva gets and they can live up to 12 months.

The workers are females. The difference between them and the queens is that they are sterile. They can live up to 22 days. There are also male wasps in their society who are fertile and can live a little bit longer than the workers. They are called drones and their role is to sometimes feed larvae and clean the nest by carrying out the dead bodies and the rubbish.

Wasps are known to eat other bugs like bees, ants, and spiders, and there have been cases in which some kinds of small nesting birds have become their prey. They can fly up to a few hundred meters and queens can fly kilometers in a row to find a good nesting place in spring. When they fly, their wings can move at more than 150 beats per second.

Wasps communicate for various reasons. When they are mating, they use audible and visual signals and, like most insects and animals, they also use their appearance and size to attract opposite sex wasps. To keep the hierarchy inside the colony, they exchange pheromones and food.

If you have been wondering why some females are fertile (the queens) and some others are not, like the workers, the reason is very simple: the queens release a pheromone that inhibits the development of the workers’ sexual organs and also keeps their behavior under control.

They also produce a hormone when they detect danger that sends an alarm signal to the workers that defend the nest that they have to protect the colony.


How can wasps be harmful to humans?

A lot of people fear wasps because they think that they attack for no reason, but they actually don’t. They usually attack when they feel that they are in danger and they see you attacking them.

They are usually attracted by sweet beverages and fish products. People have been stung by wasps because they didn’t see them in their food or drinks.

Wasps also attack when they want to defend their nests, so try not to get within a 20-foot distance to their colonies because you might get hurt. They can send signals to their workers inside the nest and they will come after you to protect their queen.

Their venom is made out of proteins, histamines, and serotonin that can produce allergic reactions in some people. Be careful after you have killed a wasp, as their venom might be dangerous for a short period of time even after they are dead.


Why are wasps considered pests?

As we have said before, wasps do not produce honey and they don’t store food inside their nest, that’s why they have to go hunting.

They can make a lot of damage on an economic and environmental level because of bees. You may wonder what the connection is. Well, wasps are like human villains. They go inside beehives and rob them of their honey and that is why many bees die. Why do they die? Because they have nothing to feed on.

On an economic level, wasps can produce a lot of losses. If bee colonies die because of wasps, that means that plantations are not pollinated properly and the production lowers.

Wasps can build their nests in animal shelters and can hurt cows, goats, and sheep. They can die if they are stung. They are usually stung in the tongue and a lot of them go into anaphylactic shock and die. This affects production and leads to money loss.


What can you do about it?

There are many ways in which you can control wasp populations and one of them is by chemically destroying their nests. You have to pay attention to some factors while doing that. You should do it during the night because that is when the wasps are not as active as they are during the day.

You also have to avoid wet weather because the substances usually used are dry dust, so they are not as effective during wet weather. Your equipment is also very important, your whole skin should be covered, and you always have to be quiet enough because you don’t want to agitate them.

Be careful not to ingest or breath in the poisoning dust and wash your hands carefully after applying the chemicals.



Final considerations

Everybody sees the planet as a whole and we always have to keep in mind that every creature is important to the ecosystem. Every insect has a role on this planet and the wasps’ role is to not let other arthropod populations get too widespread.

The job they do is important, but the wasp population getting too large may become a problem when they destroy too many beehives and too many bees are killed. Bees are in danger due to many external causes like the loss of trees and pollution. Everybody knows that life on Earth wouldn’t be possible without bees.

That’s why keeping bees safe by reducing pollution and by planting trees and flowers is very important. The same applies to protect them from wasps, even if that means reducing the wasp population.

Inhibiting wasps from destroying the bee population and killing domestic farm animals also has a great economic impact that should be considered as a critical instrument to increase your production if you are a farmer.



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