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Where Do Wasps Go?

When do wasps die at the end of summer and what do they do over winter?

Wasps, like many of us, much prefer the summer months to the winter, but unfortunately for them, winter doesn’t just mean putting on an extra jumper, it means almost certain death! As we move into autumn, the UK’s wasp population starts to reduce dramatically with the vast majority of them perishing during the coldest weeks of the year.

There is not a set date that wasps meet their maker, but it happens when the weather turns cold and they simply die from a lack of food. Wasps feed on nectar, but also on other insects and fallen fruit, none of which is plentiful over the winter in the UK, so they die as a result.

With temperatures higher than usual over summer this year, it could be a bit later that wasps suffer their demise, but it tends to be around late September that people are starting to get sick of them. Whenever we hit our next spell of cold weather we will see a sharp drop in wasp numbers, but it can be well into winter before they really disappear as temperatures can need to reach zero for them to fully run out of food. The males die over winter whilst queen wasps hibernate, but a large percentage of them die as well as they are eaten by other insects, mainly spiders. The queens can also struggle if it is a mild winter as they can emerge from hibernation too early and not have enough food available. It’s tough being a wasp! They are also more important than many realise. Unlike bees, wasps are carnivorous, meaning that they not only work as excellent plant pollinators but they also eat aphids – giving plants a decent chance at flourishing.

Wasps start life in spring when a lone queen lays a few eggs and then looks after them until they hatch into sterile females or workers. These will then help the queen tend to the next batch of eggs, feeding and increasing the size of the nest. By July, the queen will have produced enough workers to take over all maintenance of the nest and feeding responsibilities.

at this point some of the last eggs to hatch will become male drones and fertile females – or new queens. These will leave the nest and mate with other male and female wasps around autumn time. While all the other wasps die off as winter approaches (as well as the old queen), the new queens will hibernate over the winter until the following spring. The original nest will become deserted at this point.

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