The Magnificent Seven
Posted on 15th April 2021 at 08:05
The Magnificant Seven?
Or maybe the not so magnificent seven and we’re not talking about the good guys, we’re talking about wasps. We have seven species of wasp’s resident in the UK that can deliver a sting and these insects become a major problem for people living throughout the Reading area every summer. In fact, out of all the pests that we deal with, its wasps that get the winning medal in the Pest Hall of Fame as many people are terrified of these flying pests. And that’s for good reason giving how painful the sting from a wasp is, combined with their irritable attitude and their general anti-social behaviour.
Wasps, wasps and more wasps
Ok we’ve called this blog The Magnificent Seven because there are seven species of stinging or colony building wasps that we need to be on the lookout for when they’re around but, there are over 9000 different species of wasp living in the UK and the rest of these are harmless insects as they belong to the solitary wasp group. These solitary wasps are true insectivores and seek out other insects from which they will use as a host after the inject an egg into the body, and you thought that the film Alien was science fiction?
For us, it’s those wasps that build a nest that they need to defend which cause all the trouble and the wasps that we have living here at the moment are the Common wasp, the German or European wasp, the Red wasp, the Median wasp, the Saxon wasp, the Tree or Wood wasp and lastly the European Paper wasp – if you’re lucky enough (?).
I say lucky enough, these paper wasps build a nest without the tell-tale outer sheath of wood pulp, they are a species that comes from the Mediterranean region and another sign of global warming. These wasps are now found in Kent and they are slowly colonising the south coast, given the fact the Saxon wasp is another newcomer from the same region and their population has exploded across the south of England over the last decade, the paper wasp will be in Henley soon enough.
What’s going on inside a wasp nest?
If you’ve ever had a wasp nest somewhere in the house and fixed to one of the ceilings or within a hollow wall you may have been subjected to the sounds of non-stop crunching, a bit like someone enthusiastically eating through a great big bowl of cornflakes? This noise is made by the wasps constantly adapting and extending the nest to accommodate more larvae being produced by the Queen wasp. Once the Queen has got the colony up and running, she is virtually a prisoner held within the nest pumping out eggs in an organic production line, these eggs are attended by the workers to nurture. At a certain the Queen releases a pheromone that signals a change in the workers behaviour and they start to force feed the larvae. This activity sparks a change in the larval development and the extra protein forms the future Queen wasps, the colony is now at its zenith and the old Queen is dying.
But that’s only half the story, wasps are colony builders, and the workers are ‘self-sacrificers’ striving for the good of the colony rather than trying to pass on their own genes like many other insects and animals, however what happens when these workers are half brothers and sisters?
When the Queen wasp mates, she stores the male sperm inside her body and If the Queen mated with just one male, then every single offspring shares its complete DNA with the next one, ensuring perfect harmony and this will become a large colony by the end of the year – the so called “super nests” but if the Queen mated with several males then things change rapidly.
In this case the Queens’ offspring will all be half brothers and sisters, and the colony will not live in quite the same harmony, in fact its more like a scenario from The Game of Thrones where the entire cast (of hundreds if not thousands in this case) is secretly pitched against each other. What happens here is as half-sisters the urge to self-sacrifice for the good of the colony is not as strong as in the other colony.
The female wasps are able to lay eggs and they will do so; the trouble starts when other females chance upon the egg which was laid one of their (half) sisters; this egg is merely food as far as its concerned. The job of a worker wasp is to bring building material back to the colony in the form of wood pulp, bringing in insects to feed the larvae and unfortunately for us, and the bit that we hate the most - defending their nest.
Eventually this all adds up, the individual turf wars and machinations between the workers means that the colony suffers because the female wasps are too busy defending their eggs and not carrying out their duties and so a much smaller colony is formed.
Wasps are insectivores and they are ferocious predators at that, as a rough guide its thought that a good-sized colony can take in around 23KG of insects during its lifespan, if you were to break that figure down to an image that we can understand, we’re looking at around 250,000 aphids, at least its good for the roses!
All this material amounts to a lot of waste and with wasp species like the Saxon wasp this material gets ejected out of the base of the nest and you can actually see the heap of insect poo and discarded bits of insects lying on the ground below the nest. As with any waste matter, this material contains harmful bacteria such as salmonella and should be left alone
What looks like a wasp and lives in a wasp nest?
A fly. And you thought that wasps ate flies? There is one fly that has perfected its lifecycle to match the wasps and ensure that its eggs are well protected, as we said earlier, all insects and animals want to pass on their genes to the next generation and if you were a fly what better place to act as a nursey than a heavily protected wasp nest?
The Hornet mimic hoverfly is a big fly and much bigger than many species of wasp and these have perfected the technique for using the wasp nest not only as a source of food for its young but also as a creche.
Once rare in the UK these hoverflies are now very common, and we’ll often see them hanging around a wasp nest when we’re called out to treat them. The hoverfly approaches the nest cautiously and bides its time, when there is a lull in wasp activity at the entrance the hoverfly slips inside the nest. Here it lays its eggs in disused chambers and then leaves the nest in search of another one, should the hoverfly be stung by one of the workers as she’s inside, she will deposit all her eggs before the toxins take effect.
The hoverfly larvae will eventually hatch, and they live in the debris laying in the bottom of the nest; dead workers, faecal matter and bits of insects are all the food supply that the hoverfly larvae need, the protection of the colony ensures that they are safe and so the hoverfly has developed the ultimate solution for the safety of its young, maybe the Magnificent Seven aren’t the bad guys after all?
Wasp nest removal in Henley on Thames
If you discover a wasp nest, we can get one of our technicians out to you within 24 hours meaning that wasps won't ruin your summer. As a family run business thats local to the Henley area we offer as a same day service but in busy times we will make in within the 24 hours.
All of our wasp nest treatments are guaranteed and we treat addition nests that are found at the time of treatment for no aditional charge - something that other pest control companies don't do.
Local, professional and value for money just call
Henley Pest Control
Tagged as: Bee's and wasps
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