Q: What do you call a wasp?
A: A wanna-bee!
Q: What is a wasp’s favourite singer?
Q: Where do you take a sick wasp?
A: To waspital.
Wasps are generally not funny, apart from in jokes. (I’m sure some of you disagree after having read our selection of wasp jokes…) Anyway, you might’ve noticed a lot more buzzing lately, and some of you have probably had some chilling experiences where an aggressive wasp feels like it has the right to take a bite out of your sandwich or a sip out of your drink.
That is just not acceptable behaviour, especially when the wasp doesn’t take no for an answer and decides to invite its friends too. What actually happened was most likely that you were attacked by a drunken wasp, and as you know, drunks often lose all inhibitions and pick fights.
Knowing that wasps aren’t just small, evil creatures that exist to annoy you, but in fact drunk, small creatures might not improve things, but perhaps it helps us understand them better. Let’s take a look at the life cycle of a wasp more closely as it will explain why they behave as they do.
Life cycle of a wasp
A wasp will behave differently depending on where it is in its life cycle that can be divided into four stages. However, it is important to understand that these stages are not as clearly defined in nature and that there will be some overlapping. Also keep in mind that these four stages are dependent on weather and may therefore vary by several months.
In the wasp world it is the fertile queen and male wasps that reproduce, after which the male’s sperm is stored inside the queen – until the following spring. When the wasp colony dies off because of lack of food (in autumn) it is only the expectant queens that stay alive. After mating they leave in search of a sheltered place where they can hibernate until spring. Most queens actually die during the winter – they are eaten by spiders, or, if it’s a mild winter they might come out of hibernation too early when there’s still no food.
When the days get warmer the queens come out of hibernation, usually between beginning of March and end of May. They have only two things on their mind: to find nectar and build a nest in a good place so they can start a colony. The queen gets extremely busy and starts building a new home all on her own, starting with the nursery so that she can lay eggs and bring on her brood as quickly as possible. Eventually the eggs hatch into grubs, and the queen starts hunting insects to give her babies protein for growth. The grubs convert the insects into free sugars that the queen eats so that she doesn’t have to spend time looking for food for herself but can focus on building the nest. Clever isn’t it?
Eventually the grubs hatch and become worker wasps that can help out the super busy queen with her chores. The queen becomes a stay at home mum and starts focusing on laying eggs. The workers have many duties, such as keeping the nest clean and guarding it, finding building material for the home and finding food for and feeding the grubs. Again, the grubs will feed the workers with sweet sugary liquids they produce. The nest will continue to grow until the queen decides it is time to produce her new offspring.
When the queen for some reason has decided that it is time to bring the new queens and drones (males) into the world (usually in July) she must choose which eggs to fertilise. Unfertilised eggs will become drones and fertilised eggs will form female wasps (workers). The queen also needs to decide which female grubs she will turn into future queens. Around three weeks later, once the offspring has been produced, they all leave the nest at the same time as all the other wasps from all the other nests. (How all nests coordinate this is still a mystery.) There’s a lot of mating going on, and when the new queens have been fertilised they fly off to find shelter so that they can survive until next spring.
Once the nest has released its progeny it will never be the same again. The old queen stops laying eggs, which means there won’t be any more grubs, which means there will be no more food in the nest. As a result the worker wasps begin to starve and therefore decide to leave the nest in search of sweet sugary liquids – usually in late summer when we’re enjoying our barbeques and picnics outside.
This also coincides with when nature is full of ripe, fermenting fruit that make the wasps drunk. As a result they become clumsy, aggressive and turn into complete idiots that no one wants at their garden party. And if you make the mistake of killing one of these guys you’ll soon have all its mates there picking a fight with you.
However, as every summer is both the first and the last for wasps one can understand that they want to enjoy themselves a little bit before they pass away…Just wish they would do it at someone else’s party.
If you’re having trouble with a bunch of drunken wasps gate-crashing your party, don’t hesitate to get in touch here and we’ll throw them out for you.