What Are Wasps?

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In the summer, a lot of pest control companies warn you about wasps that may be bothering you at your picnic or outdoor BBQ. But what are wasps actually? When it comes to avoiding these pests, it helps to know what you’re looking for! Wasps make up a large and diverse array of insects, with more than 30,000 identified species. The ones that we are most familiar with tend to swarm around flowers, garbage cans and even our picnic tables. These insects annoy us with their loud buzzing and threaten us with their painful stings.

Although wasps are often confused with bees, they are a very different species. You can tell them apart from bees because wasps have a distinguished pointed lower abdomen and narrow ‘waist’ called a petiole that separates the abdomen from the thorax. Comparatively, bees look a lot chubbier! Wasps can be found in many different colors; we are most familiar with yellow and brown, but they also can be seen in metallic blue and bright red.

All wasps build nests made from wood fibers that they scrape with their hard mandibles and chew into a pulp. The wasps that we regularly find nesting around our homes are yellow jackets, paper wasps, bald-faced hornets and mud-daubers, just to name a few. These insects build their colonies each spring beginning with a queen who was fertilized over the fall and hibernated over the winter months. In the spring the queen starts building her nest and rears a small brood of worker females. When the worker females mature, they begin expanding the nest to accommodate a larger population of wasps, which can number up to 5,000 in the height of the season. By winter, all of the worker females as well as the queen die off and only newly fertilized queens live through the winter, when they restart the whole process in the spring.

Social wasps can be a danger to anyone in their vicinity, because if they sense danger, they will swarm an ‘invader’ and they have the ability to sting repeatedly. In fact, a social wasp that is in distress will release a pheromone that other colony members will recognize and then will come to the aid of the distressed wasp by swarming an invader in a defensive and stinging frenzy. These stings can be painful and cause swelling and in some cases they can cause a serious and life threatening allergic reaction. If you have been stung by a wasp, it is wise to keep an eye on the sting area and if you notice increased swelling or difficulty breathing, contact a medical professional immediately.

Although wasps can evoke fear in many people, they are actually quite beneficial insects. They feed on many pest insects and they have the ability to protect crops from pest invaders. But when wasps choose to nest on your property, or even inside your home, they can become a big problem. For more information on how to control wasps and for professional wasp control services, give the folks at Thomas Pest Services a call. Our professionals know how to deal with wasp infestations and can help you relieve you from these unnerving pests!

Tags: stinging insects  |  wasps


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