Wasps and hornets: information and advice
Social wasps are commonly seen in British gardens. There are several species of wasp in Great Britain. Common wasps have sharp tapered abdomens and are black and yellow striped. The hornet is the largest British wasp. All wasps have a reputation for stinging, however, the needle-like sting is possessed only by females and is concealed near the tip of the abdomen.
Queen wasps hibernate over-winter and emerge to build a nest in the spring. The nest will usually be located either in the ground or in cavities in trees, walls or buildings. Frequently wasps will nest in the roof space of a house. The nest is built up from wood pulp, which is moulded into the outer shell of the nest and many internal chambers.
The queen lays an egg in each of the chambers, which hatch into larvae. When fully grown the larvae pupate and emerge as workers who assist in rearing new larvae and new queens. Towards the end of the summer the queen lays a number of eggs which produce male wasps that mate with the new queens. In Autumn all wasps die with the exception of the new queens that hibernate then emerge to build new nests the following Spring. Old nests are not re-colonised the following year, although a new nest may be established next to an existing nest.
It may be necessary to treat wasp nests which pose a particular danger to you or your family. Unless such a danger exists, the nests are best left undisturbed. Where necessary, you can treat wasp nests yourself although care should obviously be taken in doing so. This can be done through the application of insecticidal dust at the entrance to the nest, preferably after dusk when the wasps have returned to the nest and are less active. Wasps will then carry the insecticide into the nest, spreading it to other wasps in the colony. Insecticidal dust is available from most DIY stores and garden centres. You should make sure that the product you buy is specifically intended for wasps. The directions on the product label must always be followed. As old nests are not re-colonised, treated nests need not be removed.
Foraging wasps can be a nuisance when they turn to food sources such as ripe fruit, sugary drinks, jam or honey. Individuals can be killed using an insecticidal spray designed for flying insects. Such sprays are available from chemists, hardware shops, DIY stores and garden centres. Care should be taken when using such sprays and the instructions on the package should always be followed. Wasps can be useful pollinators and are beneficial in catching and killing garden pests (aphids) to feed to their offspring.
Hastings Borough Council provides a pest control service for the treatment of wasp nests.
Our pest control information and charges page has the fees for all our pest control services.
Hornets are larger than wasps and chestnut-brown and yellow in colour (rather than black and yellow). They are usually found in parks and woodlands but may also be found in domestic gardens.
They build papery nests, which are usually found underground or hanging from trees, and can also be found in roof spaces, wall cavities, chimneys and building air-grates.
The hornet life cycle is similar to that of the common wasp. Newly-mated queens hibernate during the winter, and emerge in spring to begin building a nest. They lay eggs that hatch into sterile female workers who complete the nest building and collect food for the developing larvae. Later in the summer males and fertile females hatch, mate and the females become next year's queens. The males, old queen and workers die in the autumn. Old nests are not re-colonised the following year.
Both adults and larvae eat mainly insects and may supplement their diet with tree sap and windfall fruit. They also stock up on nectar before hibernating and can become a problem when they forage for sugary foods such as jam, fruit, etc in the late summer. Hornets, like wasps, only tend to sting if threatened.
- Food Poisoning - advise us of an incident
- Food Hygiene - business premises complaint
- Make a Noise Complaint
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