Wasps are sociable insects, living in colonies of up to 10,000 workers. They build their paper nests in disused animal burrows or in cavities in trees or buildings. Only newly-mated queen wasps hibernate during winter, and emerge in spring to begin building a nest. Queens lay eggs that hatch into sterile females workers. The workers take over nest building and food collection, while the queen continues egg laying.
In spring and early summer the workers collect mainly insects to feed the growing larvae. Towards summer’s end some eggs develop into fertile male wasps, called drones, and fertile females – next year’s queens. These swarm out of the colony and mate. The males die shortly afterwards. As the weather becomes colder all the workers and the old queen die too.
Beware – when a wasp stings or is killed the ‘smell’ of its venom causes other wasps to become more aggressive.
What does it eat?
Adults feed on the sugary liquid secreted by the wasp larvae. In late summer, as the larvae have matured, they eat nectar and other sweet substances, eg windfall fruit. Larvae eat carrion and insects.
When will I see it?
From late spring until early autumn, although much more common in late summer.
Where will I see it?
Throughout the garden. Sometimes hibernating in sheds or other sheltered places. Also in parks, hedgerows, meadows and woods.