As the temperatures begin to dip, Southeast Texans are starting to see an increase in wasps in or around their homes and places of business. We hope to inform residents that wasps are not aggressive during the fall and winter months. We urge homeowners to brush up on wasp facts to avoid being alarmed during this time.
To better understand the Fall behavior of the wasps, it’s best to start with the “nesting” phase which occurs during the Spring/Summer months. During this time the Queen is building and expanding her nest. She chews on plant material and pieces of wood to make the paper-like material of the nest, which is usually an inverted cone shaped. The nest is constructed into sections. Once the individual sections are deep enough, she will lay eggs in each cavity.
Wasps undergo a complete metamorphosis from larva to adult. The complete process is egg, to larva, to pupa, to adult. The first stage is the egg. The egg will then hatch into a tiny larva, which is fed nutrients by the Queen. The Queen goes out to find spiders and small insects which she will chew up and feed to the newly hatched larva. Once the larva matures, she will seal the larva in where it will go through pupation. Ultimately a fully developed adult emerges from the nest. In the final stage as a young adult, wasps assist the Queen expand her nest and bring food.
This action is repeated over and over during the Spring and Summer months. This is also when wasps are most aggressive. The Queen and her brood want to protect the nest against predators, even other wasps from other colonies.
As Fall approaches some young males will be born, up until this point all have been females. They, with the other young adults will depart the nest and congregate. Many times people assume these are “swarms” of wasps. These groups of wasps can be in between 12-100 in numbers, naturally alarming the people who spot them. Many of the local refineries have several sightings of this between September and December. Via these “swarming flights” the male and females will mate, after which the males die off, having served their purpose.
Once the mating takes place, the females leave the group and look for winter quarters. She will hibernate alone in a warm and sheltered place – safely protected from the harsh winter elements. Typical places of refuge are on or around buildings, homes or hollowed trees. In homes wasps will typically take refuge in a chimney, attic, or walls. These spaces, although thought to be sealed off, are easily accessible by wasps. We receive many phone calls from many alarmed customers wanting to know how to get rid of these pests. We reassure our clients that wasps are not aggressive and are very docile during this time. They are in a climate controlled house and out of the elements, which somewhat throws them off. They are more curious than anything.
With the mild winters that we have in our area the queen can easily survive to the spring season. The arrival of spring signals the time for the Queen wasp to emerge from hibernation and search for a suitable place to build her nest, thus starting the cycle all over.