Wasp season has arrived! Along with the blackberries, brown-eyed-susans, and construction holiday, the wasps are right on cue. Truth is they’ve been around for quite awhile, since early May, building their beautiful paper nests from scratch. But its only in recent weeks that most people notice, because ‘Whoa!’, now the nests are visible!
In early spring, the queen wasp is all alone, working hard to build some paper comb so she can lay eggs, then catching insects to feed to her larvae. These larvae grow to become the worker wasps that will continue to build the nest for her. Once the workers are in place, the queen just has to concentrate on making babies…and lots of them! Did you know that a yellow-jacket wasp nest, by the end of the season, can have up to 5000 wasps? At this point, the nest could be protected by up to 10 layers of paper! These layers are carefully constructed by the workers, who collect wood fibers from weathered wood decks, wood siding and other sources, mix it with their saliva and spit it out to make paper. You might notice streaks of colour, like greens and blues in some nests. That’s because the wasps took painted or stained wood fibers from a house and incorporated it into their nests!
Wasps are great predators and will remove many ‘pest’ insects from a yard, such as plant-feeding leaf-hoppers and caterpillars, among others. They also feed on spiders. Often if a visible nest is very high up in a tree or on a structure, it is perfectly safe to leave it. True, it may bring more wasps to the barbecue during an outdoor party, but generally it is a minor nuisance, unless someone is allergic. One particularly dramatic case had the wasps coming out into the baby’s room. We had to seal the walls in the little guy’s room before we went to remove the nest from near his window. When the wasps enter a house, they are not generally aggressive, but wander around, appearing rather lost. Still, their presence is often far from appreciated!