Why is it that our late summer picnics, barbecues, and other events are frequently disrupted by aggressive wasps and yellow jackets? Just when everyone is relishing the fun, these stinging insects seem to realize that their favorite foods are within easy reach.
Like bees, wasps are vital players in our ecosystem. However, their behaviors can be complex and often misunderstood. The colony’s primary focus is its own care and maintenance, but their attraction to sugary sweets like soda, fruit, and candy can make them appear aggressive.
Wasp Life Cycle
Understanding the life cycle of wasps provides insight into their actions. Every year, wasps, along with hornets and yellow jackets, start brand new colonies. Emerging from winter dormancy, the young queen builds a nest out of wood pulp. She lays her eggs and cares for them until her worker daughters mature and begin laying their own eggs. This cycle repeats several times throughout the summer.
The Importance of Wasps
These insects are not simply pests. During spring and early summer, worker wasps serve as effective pest control, hunting caterpillars, grubs, flies, and crickets to feed the growing larvae in the colony. They also clean up the environment by carrying back dead bugs and roadkill. This is the period when they display defensiveness rather than outright aggression, acting out only when their nest is threatened.
But by late summer, the dynamics change. With the queen’s final round of eggs hatched and the larvae matured, the worker wasps are freed from their protein-feeding duties. Now their diet shifts towards sweet foods. Due to fewer flowering plants, they must resort to other sources, such as human food and drink. This dietary shift and the quest for sweets leads to what we perceive as increased aggression.
Yellow jacket nests can be especially problematic. They build nests within walls and in ground holes, places easily disturbed by human activity. Disturbance leads to heightened defensiveness, and since their stingers don’t detach after a sting, they can attack repeatedly.
How to Reduce Wasp Aggressiveness
So, to peacefully coexist, be aware of their nesting sites, avoid perfumes and sudden movements when these insects are near. Tightly cover and seal food, especially sweets, during outdoor events. But rest assured, by November, the workers die off, and only the new queen remains, dormant until the cycle restarts in spring.
Are you seeing wasps? We can help. Give us a call at 215.799.2010 or fill out the form below and we will contact you.