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 Species of the Week - Common Wasp (Vespula vulgaris)

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PostSubject: Species of the Week - Common Wasp (Vespula vulgaris)   Wed Aug 07, 2013 3:54 pm

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Did you know that wasp queen is the only member of the hive to survive through the winter?

Common Wasps are found throughout the Northern Hemisphere and have also been introduced to Australia and New Zealand. Their natural habitat is dry grasslands and woodlands, but they easily adapt to urban habitats.

Only queens survive the winter and each begins to build a paper nest in the spring and starts a new colony. The queen cares for the first brood of larvae, which quickly hatch into workers and take over the task of building and protecting the nest and caring for young.

Workers only live for 2-4 weeks and are replaced by subsequent generations throughout the summer. They predate on a wide variety of small insects which they masticate and bring back to the hide to feed the larvae. Although they have stingers for defence, they kill their prey by biting them rather than stinging. Workers themselves use honeydew and nectar as food sources, but will also scavenge around humans, eating sugary drinks, meats and other picnic items.

Many of our members reported decline in wasp population in Ireland this year. Even though the summer is exceptionally warm, wasps are missing from their usual haunts around bins and garden tables.
The main reason for this decline is the wet summer of 2012 followed by this year´s very cold spring. Fewer queens went into hibernation last year and many died when they emerged from hibernation to early. There probably is no reason to worry, wasps normally undergo cycles of good and poor years and the population should bounce back to normal in following years.

What are your thoughts on this decline? Have you seen wasps this year? Let us know!

Main image – Wasp queen by Malcolm Storey
Bottom left – small abandoned nest with hibernating queen by Malcolm Storey
Bottom middle - Old nest by Don C. F. Cotton
Bottom right - Wasp worker by Ivo Antusek
All images CC BY-NC-SA 3.0
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