What Do Wasps Do?

It is a question you’ve probably asked yourself dozens of times.

What is the point of wasps?

And while they can be annoying when you’re trying to enjoy the summer months, there is actually a point to wasps. After all, there is a point to pretty much every animal on earth, and all insects are no different.

There are plenty of wasp killers on the market, but that is really not something we would recommend. Natural ways to keep wasps away are better. While wasps are feared by many humans due to their sting, you also have to be cautious of wasps if you have pets in your garden.

What is the point of wasps?

Wasps do a similar job to bees as pollinators. This means they transfer pollen from plant to plant. It is their thirst of sweet nectar that actually makes them so troublesome for humans – they are attracted to sweet foods and drinks which are outside during a barbecue or picnic.

Social wasps are also pest controllers. Greenfly and caterpillars, which can kill and eat crops and plants, are a source of food for wasps. In fact, research has shown they could be responsible for controlling up to 14 million kilograms of insect prey across the summer months in the UK.

When do wasps come out in the UK?

Wasps usually start to emerge in April in the UK. This is when the warmer weather and sun starts to show. However, as the planet starts to heat up and we get warmer temperatures earlier in the year, they have started appearing as early as March in some parts of the country.

During the winter months, they will have gone into hibernation in deep areas. Only a few will survive through to spring. A lack of food and the cold weather is a big factor, as is predation from large spiders and other insects who are also hiding in the winter.

The queen wasps will emerge first, trying to find somewhere to lay their eggs and start raising their colony. It is the queen who lays the eggs, and the worker wasps help to build the hive and help raise the young. Workers emerge between April and May.

By late August, the colonies are full of wasps but have stopped raising larvae. So, they must find other sources of sugar. This is why you see them more frequently. By June or July, the hives are at their fullest.

How can I get rid of wasps?

You should never kill wasps. Instead, try to keep them away.

Wasps won’t bother you unless they feel threatened, so never swipe them away (as hard as that can be). Simply try to move away. Going inside is a good idea, so you can put a barrier between you and the wasp.

It is also a good idea to check whether there is a wasps nest anywhere nearby. They love to be somewhere sheltered and not easily accessible, so loft spaces, window frames, guttering, sheds and other outbuildings are common wasp nest destinations.

If there is a wasp nest nearby, you’ll soon feel overwhelmed by visitors. You can use wasp traps, which are often filled with very sweet sugary nectar, but most of these will just trap the wasp until it dies.

You can, however:

  • Buy an ornament that mimics a wasp nest and hang it near your seating area. Wasps are territorial and don’t use old nests either, so they will stay away
  • Cover all food and drink which is consumed outside
  • Place sugary foods such as fruit away from your seating area, in an area where humans and pets won’t go, to attract them away from you
  • Use a safe, pet-friendly insect repellent
  • Cover bins and compost heaps
  • Wipe away sweat – yes, apparently they can be attracted to our perspiration!
Dog with Bee
Credit: Flickr

Can wasps harm pets?

Despite the fact that you should always allow wildlife to take precedent over your own pets in the garden, it can be worrying if the insects are potentially dangerous.

Wasps can of course sting pets, as they can humans. Your course of action depends on the severity and location of the sting.

Most of the time, a wasp or bee sting will only cause minor irritation to your cat or dog. If this is the paw or other body part, keep an eye on the swelling and call a vet if you’re worried.

But if they have been stung several times in the mouth area, it could be a cause for concern. If they’ve eaten the wasp, this is even more concerning as they could have also been stung in the throat. Wasps can sting several times, whereas a bee only stings once before dying.

The swelling could result in trapped airways. Take them to the vet ASAP.

Pets can be really curious about wasps and other insects. Their movements mean that cats love to chase them, and dogs are simply wondering what on earth the small yellow thing is. If your pets are outside, keep wasps away.

Even though we don’t condone killing wasps because of their important role, if they are a particular problem, you may wish to use a homemade trap.

Wasps are becoming more endangered though, so really try to repel wasps first. Call in a professional if they’re a particular nuisance and danger.