March 20, 2019

German Wasp (Vespula germanica)

Now at this time of year, I realise that this may be a risky statement but I love wasps and you should too.

The slightly aggressive, rather clumsy wasps you see in the autumn in the UK are a pale, stunted shadow of their former selves. Earlier in the year, the workers scour the area around their nest for insect prey to feed to the colony’s developing larvae. Gardeners should be particularly glad of the amount of grubs and caterpillars collected and consumed by this voracious army of sisters, for until late summer they’re all sterile female workers, born of a single queen.

All summer the workers either feed on flower nectar or ingest the juices from the meaty prey items they regurgitate to feed the larvae, in return the larvae secrete a super sweet saliva to reward the workers. Once the colony has matured, and there are no more larvae present, it’s this highly nutritious substance which they try to replace, whether it’s our food or drink, the sticky contents of our bins or the fruit in our orchards.

Ultimately, although they’re a nuisance, they’re really just a bit desperate, so waving your arms about or swatting at them just makes things worse. Try to be calm when they’re around and be observant of their habits and behaviour, then you should be able to stay sting free – you may even get to appreciate them for the interesting and beneficial insects they are.