This piece of folk wisdom has been around for a very long time. If the winter has been fierce and cold, the summer that follows will be mercifully free of wasps. But is there any scientific backing to this claim? If not, where did this myth originate?
The shortest possible answer is ‘no, wasps won’t be affected by the unusually cold winter’. The reason why, though, is a bit more complex, and it requires some understanding of wasp social structure.
How do wasps survive winter?
Towards the end of summer and warm weather, when food becomes scarce, wasp workers return to their hives and die there. The only survivor in the entire hive is the queen. The queen finds a suitable place to hide through the winter. She needs it to be dry and warm in order to survive. Once the warm weather begins anew, the wasp queen looks for a suitable location for a new nest. She will never use the same hive from last year, most likely because it’s full of dead wasps from last year.
How does the queen survive the winter?
Unlike honey bees, who huddle up together in their nest and keep each other warm, wasps employ a different strategy. Only the queen survives the winter, drastically reducing the amount of energy expended to prolong the colony one more year. The queen spends the cold part of the year in the state of hibernation, which drastically reduces her need for breathing and nutrition. However, once she wakes up, she needs to feed.
During hibernation, the queen keeps her wings and antennae, the most vulnerable parts of her body tucked away, in a sort of fetal position to protect them from the worst of the elements.
How does a new wasp nest begin?
Towards the previous wasp season, all the worker bees impregnated the queens before dying. This way, their last contribution to the prolongation of the species was given. After the winter, the queen starts creating a new nest by building a single hexagonal cell and then builds from there into larger and larger structures. The eggs are laid into these chambers, and new worker wasps emerge from them.
But in order to be able to do any of that, the wasp queen needs to eat first. And surprisingly to many people, wasps actually eat nectar, just like honey bees. It is the larvae that are meat eaters, and that is why wasps hunt insects.
So are cold winters reducing the populations?
Once again, they do not. Wasp queens are safely hidden from the elements, and they do not die as a result of freezing. If that were the case, colder regions that experience extremely cold winters, such as Alaska or Siberia wouldn’t have any wasp populations. With temperatures plunging as low as -40° F, both these places have thriving wasp populations later in the year.
The opposite might be true
In fact, mild winters can spell trouble for wasp populations. Normally, during the winter, wasps emerge in March-April, just in time to catch the first flowers and be able to find nectar to eat. However, if a winter has been particularly mild, wasps can feel the warmth as early as February and wake up prematurely. With no flowers to provide food for them, wasps starve to death without forming a new hive that year.
Come spring, some wasps may decide to make their hive on your property. If that is the case, you are going to need some help in dealing with them. If you are looking for Anaheim wasp nest removal company, contact Bee Busters. With decades of experience in pest control all over Orange County, Bee Busters is the best choice for this job.