Life cycle of wasps

The life cycle of wasps begins in early Spring.

Throughout Winter, the queen wasp hibernates in a cocoon, or golf ball sized hibernation cell, having been fertilised by male wasps before hibernation.

In Spring the fertilised queen wasp emerges from hibernation and looks for a suitable nesting site to build her colony. The old wasps nest and hibernation cells are never used again.

She starts to make a basic nest built from chewed wood pulp and plant debris, mixed with saliva. She begins by constructing a single layer and works outwards until she reaches the edges of the nest. Then she constructs a stalk to which she attaches several cells in which she lays eggs.

These eggs will develop into sterile females or workers.

The queen initially raises the first sets of eggs herself, until enough worker wasps exist to maintain the rest of her offspring and to build the rest of the wasps nest without her assistance. All the queen does from then on is to lay more eggs. During July she will have produced enough worker wasps for them to completely take over the maintenance of the nest and the feeding of the eggs.

During Autumn, the eggs develop into males, and into fertile females, they leave the nest, and mate. The fertilised females, or new queens, then hibernate in cocoons until the next Spring, to start the life cycle again.

Meanwhile, the founder queen, the males, and all the workers die, and the original nest becomes deserted.

It is when all the eggs have been fed and developed that the foraging wasps begin to be a nuisance to us, as their job in life is now done and they retain the food they collect themselves, and often get a little drunk on the fermented fruit they gorge on.

Some would say fair enough reward for all the hard work they do in their short lives, but if you have ever been stung you may reserve judgement on this issue.

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