Wasp – friend or foe?

Wasps are one of the many disliked and irritating insects as every summer we shrink back as they are drawn to the sugars in our sodas and sweets in our picnics.

Wasps are known for their painful stings which can take up to 24 hours to wear off but wasps usually only sting when provoked. Unfortunately, a small percentage of people are allergic to wasp venom and can go into anaphylaxis which can be fatal.

However, not all wasps sting and wasps are actually a very important species as there are many benefits to having these small creatures around.

Wasps are beneficial because they are predators and nearly every pest insect on the earth is preyed upon by a wasp species.

Wasps spend much of their time hunting smaller insects to feed their larvae. Many of their prey are crop and flower destroying bugs such as grubs, caterpillars, grain fly, aphids and weevils. The presence of wasps can be so beneficial to farmers that some farmers ship wasps in as a natural pest control for their crops. These wasps are either relocated from other areas or are reared and sold to farmers to aid them in cutting the use of pesticides on their crops.

Around 80 percent of the wasp population nest, feed and overwinter near areas of agriculture.

Wasps are also pollinators. Although not as effective as the honeybees, wasps are drawn to nectar, the sugar rich liquid produced by plants. As they feed, they pollinate the plants allowing them to reproduce and create seeds. Over 80 percent of the world’s flowering plants require a pollinator to reproduce. As the number of honeybees decline, we will be looking more and more to these insects for the successful reproduction of our natural food sources.

The hoverfly is another insect known as an aphid eating pollinator. Wasps and hoverfly cohabitate as the nests of social wasps provide homes for the hoverfly.

Did you know?

There are over a hundred thousand species of wasps around the world that we know about. There are also over 900 species of fig trees (mostly in the tropics) and almost each one of these trees has its own fig wasp. The wasps use the figs to reproduce and also to effect pollination.

Wasps need only to be destroyed if they are harmful to you because you are allergic to them or they are too close to your home.

To avoid being stung try not to wear heavily scented soaps or fragrances when you are in an area of wasp activity. Always wear shoes when walking in flowered areas and keep a look out for nests. If a wasp happens to land on or near you, remain calm and still and it will eventually fly off.

Wasps are pests to us, but their life cycle is so short and their benefits far outweigh their negative points. We are often afraid of what we do not understand and so hopefully by knowing a little more about these little insects and their valuable roles in the ecosystem, we will find it easier to live with them.

Interesting facts:

  • Wasps do not swarm
  • In the spring a queen will be born and start building a nest, lay eggs and produce enough workers to complete the nest while she continues to lay eggs and produce workers.

  • Wasp nests are most active from July to October.

  • Wasps are most aggressive in August and September in the UK as they feed on fallen fruit. The alcohol in the fermented fruit makes them angrier and bolder than usual and they are more likely to sting without being provoked.

  • In winter the queen and workers die and the nest becomes deserted.

  • The size of a wasp nest is determined by how close the nest-building materials are to their chosen nest site.

  • An average size wasp nest will consume hundreds of kilograms to tons of insect pests throughout their season.

  • Wasps are carnivores and eat a large number of high protein foods including dead animals!

  • Wasps nest in rabbit warrens, holes in the ground and within hedges, not just houses!

  • Leaving wasps inside a property can cause the following risks:

    • Damage to plasterboard.
    • Aggressive behaviour if disturbed.
    • If the nest is in or near downlights they can catch fire where the nest overheats on the downlight and wasps die and cook in them.
    • Blocking of gas flues in chimneys.

Honeybee or wasp?

Wasps are often incorrectly identified as honeybees and vice versa. Honeybees are of similar size and shape, they are not jet black and yellow like wasps.

We deal with this oversight on a daily basis as we run a specialised live bee removal service called Beegone.

Beegone will correctly identify the bee or wasp while actually removing honeybees from building fabric for pest controllers and people with this type of issue.

Beegone also carry out presentations to bee-keeping clubs and organisations about this important work. For me information about this contact [email protected].

If you have any questions please do contract Beegone with regards to honeybees or PGH Pest Control with regards to Wasps. We would be very happy to help you out.


Wasp control and prevention


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