Whether most autumn wasps are male or female does not really make much difference to your frustrating experience with these insects at this time of year. The autumn months are when wasps can become a persistent nuisance and are more inclined to use their tiny but painful stings.
Most of the wasps you’ll see buzzing around in the autumn are female or worker wasps. Over the year, hundreds, if not thousands, have emerged from their papery grey nests to join the growing crowd that serve their queen. Their job is to gather food, usually in the form of other insects, and help to make the nest larger.
By the end of the summer, the next generation of queens will have left, looking for mates and then for somewhere to hibernate through the winter. This leaves huge numbers of infertile female worker wasps with no real work to do. That’s when they become particularly irritating pests.
The roles of male and female wasps
Most of the eggs laid by a queen wasp become female workers. It’s only towards the end of summer when some develop into males and others into young queens. All of these will leave the nest when fully developed, going in search of mates from other wasp nests.
Having mated with a queen, the male wasps die. The fertilised new queens go looking for somewhere to spend the winter, where they will not be disturbed. This hibernation period is also when they are most vulnerable. If you come across a hibernating queen wasp, perhaps in a shed or loft space, it should be easy to kill. However, if you have any concerns about it, contact a Wasps Pest Control specialist.
As spring arrives, the warmer weather wakes the queen, who will go in search of a suitable place for her nest. This could be a hole in a tree or building, a sheltered spot inside a hedge, or some other location it considers safe enough to start constructing a nest.
The first eggs it lays will grow into infertile female wasps, the workers, who take over responsibility for extending the nest and gathering food while the queen continues to lay eggs.
Female wasps are the pest control problem
By the autumn, the wasp nest is probably home to thousands of insects. It becomes overcrowded, as building stops, and the temperature inside the nest rises. The worker wasps continue to collect food but once the queens and male wasps have left, there are fewer wasp grubs to feed.
The workers become overfed and overheated in their crowded nest. Sometimes they are tipsy from eating over-ripe fruit. It’s often these hot, bothered wasps who turn up uninvited at picnics and barbecues or come into your home, searching for sweetness to feed on. They become easily irritated and angry, and will often sting with little provocation.
While they are at their worst in the autumn, wasps can be a pest control problem at any time of year. They are best dealt with in the early summer, when the nests are smaller and the male wasps and young queens have yet to hatch.
If you need to deal with wasps in the autumn, it is usually better to call in a professional pest controller. They will have all the necessary protective equipment and expertise to remove the nest completely and efficiently.