When queen wasps emerge from winter hibernation, their mission is to find a suitable place to build their new nests. Among their favoured locations are sheds, lofts and holes in the ground but choosing the site is just the start of potential problems for homeowners.
How wasp nests are made
To build the nest, the queen wasp needs fresh wood which she chews, shreds and mixes with saliva to create a papier mache like material. Fence panels, sheds, gates and wooden window frames are all ideal places for wasps to nest. In fact, if you notice small white lines on fence panels or sheds, it’s quite probably a sign that a wasp nest is not far away.
Building the nest
The queen has to make sure that it’s secured to something solid like a roof rafter where she’ll build a centre stalk around which to add cells. These cells are where she’ll lay eggs. A spell of relentless activity follows as the queen must find food for the hatching larvae and keep building cells until the first brood of adult wasps has hatched and takes over the building work.
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Early signs of a wasp nest
Building a wasp nest takes all summer and they look like rather dull, cement-coloured bees’ nests. The largest nest recorded in the UK was over six feet by five feet. But of course, you want to spot one well before it reaches anything like that; they start about the size of a golf ball and are usually distinguishable by swirling patterns on the outside. A small wasp nest early in the year can usually be dislodged safely with a stick but certainly not once it and its inhabitants are increasing.
Obviously, once the wasps have hatched and are flying about, you should be able to notice if they’re going to and from the same place – a small entrance hole or under the eaves.
Know your foe
Although damage to wood can be unsightly and may weaken the structure, the real concern for householders is the wasps themselves. A British summer wouldn’t be the same without wasps ruining a picnic, barbecue or outdoor pub lunch. But by the time the wasps are becoming bothersome, searching for food, they’ll have established squatting rights in a nest somewhere nearby.
It’s really best to call in pest control experts as wasps can be extremely aggressive and will sting en masse to protect their nests. Besides, any pesticides or other extermination techniques used will be dependent on where the nest is in relation to people, pets and property. Some home emergency protection policies include cover for dealing with wasps and other pests and in some instances, local authorities may be able to help.
Before calling in the pest controllers it's worth knowing that wasps can be beneficial in the garden, as long as their nest is out of the way, as they eat flies, caterpillars, aphids and other garden pests.
It’s impossible to guess how many thousands of wasps might be in a nest, but their stings are painful and in some cases can prove fatal so if you are considering tackling it yourself, plan your access and exit routes carefully, and never tackle a nest from a ladder. Always wear protective clothing and headgear that covers your face.
The good news is that wasps don’t return to a nest so once the wasps have died off in the autumn, you won’t get troubled from the same place again.
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