Wasps are commonly found throughout the UK and northern Europe. Like ants, they are social creatures, and form colonies consisting of workers (infertile females), males and a queen. Hornets are part of the wasp family, and their life cycle is very much the same.
Where do they live?
Typically, wasps nests are found in earth banks, in buildings (roof spaces or cavities in walls), in trees or bushes. They build nests every year, with the colder months killing off workers and males. Only the young queens survive the winter to make a new nest the following spring.
Why are wasps such a nuisance to humans?
Wasps cause a nuisance for various reasons. It is usually the late summer when the workers do not have to feed the larvae with high protein food, and they can indulge in sweet substances - such as fruit, jams and syrups. They enter kitchens in search of sweet food, and while not particularly hostile, they will sting if aggravated. As the cooler weather comes, the wasps become more irritable, and this is not helped by them feeding on over-ripe fruit, giving them the appearance of being "tipsy". Again they are better left alone when in this condition. Earlier in the year the only nuisance caused by wasps is minor damage done to wooden fences, for example, and wooden fabric of buildings when the wood is needed to build nests.
Do wasps do any real harm?
Wasps do have a useful role scavenging for the larvae of other insects, controlling garden pests and clearing carcasses early in the season. They even dispose of rotten timber if available. However, they may carry disease picked up during their visits to dustbins, bottle banks and carcasses and can contaminate food if allowed to settle on it. A wasp sting is caused by the injection of poison into the victim, causing redness and swelling. In some cases more serious effects occur, and you should seek medical advice if this happens.
How do I get rid of them?
You can dispose of individual wasps using domestic insecticides, although this will not control or eliminate the colony itself. Ideally the whole nest and colony should be destroyed and we recommend that professional help is sought here as the risk to an untrained person dealing with a wasps nest can be significant. We will be able to locate the nest and dispose of it in the most suitable way, depending on its location and accessibility.