Wasps & Hornets
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What are wasps?
Wasps are social or in some cases, solitary insects. Wasps create a new nest each year when a solitary female or 'queen' emerges from hibernation in the spring. The queen will build a small golf ball sized nest for the first generation of workers that she will raise on her own. Once the first generation emerges, known as the 'workers', they collect food and materials for the queen to lay more eggs to increase the population of the worker wasps. Larvae are fed pre-chewed insects and other materials. Adult workers generally feed on flower nectar and fruits.
The nest consists of several tiers of comb covered by a round paper casing with an entrance at the bottom. Nests are typically located in trees or shrub branches, although they may be built on the sides of houses or in the ground. The nest structure grows rapidly over the summer since workers continually add to the paper nest as the population grows.
As fall approaches, colonies produce males and new queens, which leave the nest to mate. Newly mated queens burrow into the ground where they spend the winter. The workers, males, and the old queen perish in the fall. Nests are not reused.The most common wasp in Winnipeg is known as the yellow jacket.
What do wasps eat?
We consider wasps to be useful insects because they are predators of many other small insects and are beneficial to humans by pollinating various varieties of flowering plants. In addition, they are scavengers, feeding on dead insect carcasses.
How do wasps sting?
Wasps can sting multiple times since their stinger is barbless and does not come out when it pierces your skin. Wasps sting when they feel threatened or the nest has been damaged. By remaining calm and not annoying wasps by swatting, you decrease your chance of being stung.
What do yellow jackets look like?
Yellow jackets are large, black and yellow wasps.
How can I stop bees or wasps from making a nest?
By removing attractive nesting sites, you can keep wasps or bees from making a nest. In the early spring, seal any cracks or holes on the outside of your buildings. Look at the soil around your foundation and bushes. Fill areas with soil that have a hole. Early in the season, spraying water with garden hose can easily remove a small golf ball sized nest.
How can I control wasps and remove/destroy a nest?
Aerosol sprays containing Permethrin, Propoxur, Resmethrin, or Pyrethrin are effective in controlling wasps, hornets or bees. These products can be purchased at your local garden centres. All Pest Control products purchased and used must be registered with Health Canada and contain a Pest Control Product (P.C.P. or PCP) Number on their label. You can direct the spray into the entrance and once there are no more wasps coming out of the nest it can be removed. It is highly recommended to treat wasp nests in the evening or early in the morning when most of the workers are inside the nest. Use a flashlight but don’t carry it. Place it where it will shine on the nest. If the wasps escape, they will fly towards the light instead of you. The best time to control wasps is at night when they are all in their nests. It is important to note that once a nest has been vacated the wasps will not reuse the nest. If a nest is seen in the winter there is no worry that it will be inhabited by wasps again. It will eventually decompose and fall apart.
How do I keep myself from getting stung?
Always be cautious when spraying bee or wasp nests. The bees or wasps will try to defend their nests. Plan a retreat line. Wear long sleeved, tight fitting clothing. Tape your pants and sleeves closed.
If yellow jackets are present, avoid using perfume or cologne, and do not wear bright colors, as they are attracted to anything that looks or smells like a flower. At picnics, keep all food and drinks covered, except when actually serving or eating. Be careful when drinking from a can or bottle, as you may swallow a yellow jacket and possibly receive a sting in the throat. Always keep trash containers covered.
What are hornets?
Hornets are a physically larger version of the yellow jacket wasp. They have a similar life cycle and general habits of the yellow jacket. Hornets are black and white and feed primarily on other insects. These are not true hornets but have retained the name.