Wasps are an exceptionally successful species of insect that are related to, but notably different from bees and ants. Many wasps are eusocial creatures that live together in a nest that includes workers that are non-reproducing, and an egg-laying queen. The yellow jacket, bald-faced hornet, and cicada killer are the primary types of wasps commonly found throughout the Pennsylvania and New Jersey regions.
Wasps play an important role in the ecosystem. In the spring, because wasps feed on nectar, they pollinate flowers and plants. They are also helpful in keeping down certain pest control populations that can harm crops and gardens. Wasp colonies can number into the thousands.
Wasp bodies consist of a head with compound eyes, as well as simple eyes called ocelli. Wasps chew by using their two mandibles, which are located on the sides of the wasps’ mouth. Wasps vary from bees in that they have long, slender bodies. They have an exoskeleton that is usually shiny in appearance. Wasp color can range from species to species, anywhere from red, black, to blue. Wasp bodies are separated into three segments. Behind the wasps’ head is the thorax, the second segment is the wasp’s large abdomen, and at the tip of the abdomen is the stinger. Only female wasps have stingers.
Some wasps are parasitic and lay their eggs in the bodies of other insects. This type of wasp’s first meal is that of the host body where it hatches. Social wasps feed on nectar and are considered omnivorous because they also eat both plants and insects including spiders, bees, caterpillars, ants, and flies, as well as human food.
Wasps prefer to live in meadowlands, gardens, orchards, near human constructed buildings, under eaves, in playgrounds, etc. Wasps build a nest that looks like paper that has been chewed into a pulp from wood fibers and their own saliva. By the end of the summer, wasp nests can grow to be quite large, up to the size of a basketball.
PROBLEMS WITH WASPS
Late summer, early fall, are generally when people have problems with wasps. This is because it is at this time that the wasp colony social structure begins to break down. The wasps seek food and often come into contact with humans. Nests can be unsightly, and many people are fearful of wasps and their sting.
Wasps will, when attacked, release a chemical that alerts the other wasps in the colony of danger. Throughout the summer, the mission of the average wasp (drone) is to provide food to the young. Once the season ends, and the queen stops producing a specific hormone that keeps the colony in order, the worker wasps become disoriented and are more likely to sting.
Unlike their bee cousins, when a wasp stings, the stinger does not break off. Wasps tend to be more aggressive than bees, and can sting a number of times, as the act of stinging does not cause their death. The stinger contains venom which can make the sting very painful and/or itchy. If a person is allergic, it can send them to the hospital. Wasps, however, do not transmit any viral or bacterial diseases to humans.
SIGNS OF AN INFESTATION
The best indicator of a wasp infestation near your home or business is the actual existence of wasps. If you notice a high number of them around, it is likely that they have a nest nearby. Follow one of the wasp’s flight path to determine where they are going, which can lead you directly to the colony’s location. Wasps generally prefer areas that are sheltered from the weather such as in attics, under eaves, garage ceilings, gutters, etc.
While it might not be entirely possible to prevent wasps from building a nest on your property, there are some steps you can take to help deter them from wanting to. These include:
• Cracks, gaps, and cavities in the home or office’s siding, foundation or windows can make an attractive area for wasps to build their nest. Fill or repair these at the beginning of spring.
• Walk around the property to see if there are any holes in the ground where rodents have made their homes and have abandoned. Fill these holes with more dirt.
• Wasps are omnivorous and will eat human food. Don’t allow any trash or garbage to lie around the property unsealed or open to the elements. Make sure that trashcans are securely closed, pet food is in an air-tight container and all food items are put promptly away after a BBQ.
If you find that your home or business is housing a wasp’s nest, you will want to call an expert pest control provider immediately. Wasps can be aggressive and dangerous, and trying to eradicate them on your own can prove harmful and ineffective.