While bees have the cute and useful reputation in the insect kingdom their cousins, wasps, have a reputation for being very aggressive. In reality, for part of the year they’re just as useful as bees so why are wasps so aggressive in the fall?
In short, it’s because of family obligations. A shrinking food source in the late summer and fall also contributes to their mean disposition.
Life Cycle of a Wasp
Wasps are social creatures that live in colonies but they also have to restart their nest every year. During the winter, the wasp queen hides in a warm place and goes dormant. When spring arrives, she emerges and makes a new nest from wood pulp. She then lays the first batch of eggs and raises these worker daughters through larvae and pupae stages to adulthood. These workers then start taking over care of the colony while the queen lays more eggs to produce additional workers.
During this phase of colony development, the focus is on feeding the hungry larvae. Wasps don’t just get bigger as they mature. Like butterflies, wasps undergo full-body metamorphoses until they become flying adult wasps – and those young wasps need a lot of protein!
Throughout spring and early summer, while worker wasps are feeding the young, wasps are a gardener’s friend. Wasps hunt crop pests like caterpillars, grubs, flies, and crickets to bring them back for the hungry young larvae in the colony. As such, wasps play an important role in controlling pests. They also carry back dead bugs and chunks of roadkill, cleaning up the environment.
Wasps during spring and summer are only aggressive when someone threatens or disturbs their nest – so what seems hostile is actually defensive behavior. Unfortunately, they do often make their homes in areas that can be too close to or disturbed by humans. Otherwise, during spring and early summer, if you don’t bother a wasp then it will leave you alone.
Why Are Wasps Mean in the Fall?
In mid to late summer the wasp queen lays her last round of eggs. These will turn into fertile wasps which will form their own colonies for next year. Relieved of the burden of constantly having to feed protein to hungry larvae, the worker wasps focus most of their diet on sweet things. While earlier in the year this would entail plant nectar, by this time of the year sources for nectar are a bit scarcer. Some plants only flower in the spring and change over to greenery for the rest of the summer and fall, and so forth.
This combination of the change in their habits, fewer opportunities for plant nectar, and an abundance of sweet food and drinks – as people enjoy outdoor activities in late summer and fall – is what puts wasps and humans on a collision course. Sugary drinks, ice cream, and fruit (either fallen from trees or part of a person’s lunch) all attract wasps that now are foraging specifically for sweet food. The wasps’ natural habit of believing the best defense is a good offense puts them in conflict with the humans providing the sweet items they crave. The human tries to brush the wasp away, and it’s a fight with the wasp trying to sting whoever is getting in their way.
While the details will vary by species, a similar pattern plays out with other stinging insects. Yellow jackets, paper wasps, hornets, etc. can also be threats in late summer and fall.
The best way to avoid wasps and other stinging insects is to not be in areas they have learned provide sweet foods – wasps are actually fairly smart and notice patterns like a picnic area being busy at a certain time of day. Stick to water or diet drinks, neither of which attracts wasps like soda, lemonade and sweetened teas do. Similarly, don’t bring or buy fruit, dessert, ice cream, etc. Avoid wearing bright colors. If a wasp does try to check out your cookout anyway, back away slowly without swiping at it.
Avoid Aggressive Wasps
The smartest way to get rid of wasps and other aggressive insects is to call a professional like Arrow Exterminating. We’ll start by properly identifying the type of insect, finding all of its nesting areas and removing them. Why risk painful, dangerous stings when the experts at Arrow can do it for you?
If you think you have a wasp, hornet or yellow jacket problem, contact Arrow Exterminating to identify and eliminate them.