The weirdly aggressive behaviour of wasps

by Feb 16, 2017News

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Wasps don’t usually endear themselves to people. In fact, if one happens to buzz around while we’re outside enjoying a meal or a drink then our first instinct is to flap it away in annoyance. If that doesn’t work, we’ll usually vacate the premises, muttering under our breath.

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We see wasps as evil creatures that sting us and make our lives a misery. But there’s an underlying factor as to why wasps behave in such an aggressive manner.

Worker wasps with nothing to do

While it might seem to be a coincidence that there are more wasps around in summer, there’s actually a practical reason for this being so. For wasps, summer is prime feeding time. Unlike bees, who eat nectar and pollen, wasps like to feed on other insects, dead or alive, and summertime is when the insects are out in force.

It’s towards the end of summer that wasps tend to be more aggressive towards humans. This is because the worker wasps have provided insects to feed the young grubs back in the nest and they’re left with nothing to do. The queen also stops producing the hormone that keeps the wasp colony cohesive. Basically, these worker wasps have finished their job, and they’re off on a mission to find a sweet treat, but they’re not in a mood to be trifled with. If you provoke them, they will sting.

What to do if you’re stung by a wasp

Wasps aren’t inherently evil and out to get us, but they can land a nasty sting. Unlike a bee, a wasp doesn’t die after stinging once; it can sting multiple times. Even if you kill the wasp, the sting lives on and keeps pumping venom into the wound, and some people have strong allergic reactions to a wasp’s sting which is designed to attack the nervous system.

The other thing to be aware of with wasps is that when one is harmed it releases a chemical that is picked up by the other wasps in the nest and a rescue mission is sent out. A wasps nest can have up to 10,000 wasps in it.

So moving around rapidly where wasps are flying is not a great idea. The best thing to do if a wasp flies anywhere near you is to simply freeze like a statue until it flies away again, minimising the risk of being stung.

Why wasps are important to the food chain

All this might make you even less inclined to like wasps, but they do have an important use. They help to control the insect population that would otherwise destroy crops. However, a wasps nest attached to the side of your house or garden is potentially dangerous, especially if you have children. It is best to get it removed safely by the professionals, never attempt to remove a wasp nest yourself.