The most common wasp seen around homes is the paper wasp, or red wasp.
This insect measures up to an inch long, and depending on the species, is reddish-brown to dark brown in color. Some species have yellow markings on the head. They possess a narrow waist between the thorax and abdomen, and their dark wings fold along the body at rest.
A wasp’s mouthparts are designed to chew wood fiber, plants, and other insects. When mixed with their saliva, the fibers produce a very strong building material. The nests are paper-like constructions with multiple cells; each cell is built one at a time during the spring and early summer. Some wasps build nests next to existing wasp nests, while others construct them in new locations. Still other red wasps will take over a nest that is under construction by a different family.
These insects feed on plants and other insects, as well as exposed food or trash. They can be aggressive when eating or defending the nest, and a female wasp can sting multiple times. If a person or pet has an allergy or sensitivity to stings, the reaction can be painful and life-threatening.
Wasps go through the following stages during their lifetime:
- Egg: Eggs are laid in each cell of the nest.
- Larva: The eggs hatch into small legless and wingless grubs called larvae. Some wasp species spin a silk-like cocoon within the cell as the larvae mature. Adult wasps feed the larvae other insects, such as caterpillars.
- Pupa: Each larva goes through several growth stages of development before pupating and hatching as a fully formed adult wasp.
- Adult: Some adults will leave the nest and form their own colonies; others will stay and continue to build the existing nest and feed the larvae. By late summer, depending on the species, a nest might have up to 30 mature wasps before the colony begins to die off.
Wasps are social insects, and each family supports other, related nests. A nest comprises a queen, workers, and males. The queen lays the eggs for the entire colony and can survive several seasons in a protected habitat or undisturbed nest. The workers, typically sterile females, help build and defend the nest, and they also feed the young. Males are born later in the breeding season strictly for mating purposes.
How to Control Wasps
Wasps can be a danger to pets in the daytime, particularly during outdoor activities for dogs. The best time to remove a visible nest is at night, when the brood is less aggressive and all the females are in or on the nest. Carefully target the nest with a long-range aerosol spray to kill visible wasps and eggs. Then knock down the nest, and make sure that all the insects are dead.
Inside your home, rogue wasps can be exterminated with with a flea spray for the house.
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