Wasps are probably the most familiar and generally disliked of all British insects. Their bodies bear the characteristic black and yellow bands and have a narrow waist in the middle of the body. They vary in size from the worker which is 10-15mm in length, to the queen, which is 20mm long, and they have two pairs of wings which lock together. The needle-like sting is possessed only by the females and is concealed near the tip of the abdomen.
Several species of wasp exist in the UK but the most abundant are The Common Wasp (Vespula vulgaris) and The German Wasp (Vespula germanica) both of which are widely distributed.
Wasps can be a nuisance but are not responsible for the spread of disease. Although they are generally disliked because of their sting, this will only be used by most species when the wasp is aroused or frightened but they do sometimes have a tendency to sting when unprovoked.
Wasps are responsible for causing serious damage to ripened fruit and are generally a nuisance when attracted to sweet smelling foods. Their benefits, however, are not so widely appreciated, for in the spring and early summer, wasp grubs are fed on other insect pests.
The queen emerges from the nest in the autumn and, after mating, selects a suitable site for hibernation. Late in the following spring the hibernation comes to an end and the surviving queens select a nest site. The nest is usually located either in the ground, or in the roof cavities/lofts, and is built up from wood pulp which is moulded into the outer shell of the nest and contains many internal chambers. The queen lays an egg in each of the chambers and these hatch into larvae which are fed by the queen on dead insects.
When fully grown, the larvae pupate and from the pupae sterile workers emerge. These workers assist in rearing new larvae and the new queens. Towards the end of the summer the queen lays a number of eggs which produce male wasps and these mate with the new queens. As the weather becomes colder in the autumn, all the wasps die, except the new queens which fly away to find hibernation sites. The old nests are not recolonised the following year.
Although there are many DIY products on the market, due to the potential danger associated with dealing with a wasps nest and the potential to be stung countless times, we would strongly recommend that you use a professional pest controller.