Wasps in New England

Wasp Control for Your Home or Business in Boston, MA, CT, RI, ME, NH, and VT

General Information

Belonging to the expansive order Hymenoptera, which consists of wasps/hornets, bees, and ants, wasps are flying insects that predominantly live in colonies and prey on other small insects or arthropod creatures for sustenance, including several orders of pests. Two common types of wasps in New England include yellow jackets (Vespula spp.) and white-faced hornets (Dolichovespula maculata). Paper wasps, or Polistes dominula, also remain very common to the area.

Wasps can be solitary or social and are typically found underground and in trees. If aggravated, wasps may become aggressive, especially during the fall before overwintering when brood sizes reach their peaks. Overly aggressive colonies found in densely populated suburban or urban areas may require professional pest control management.

Picture of Paper Wasp
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Appearance & Identification

What Do Wasps Look Like?
Unlike bees, wasps lack the synonymous body hair associated with honeybee and bumblebee appearances. Exact body type varies between species, with some wasps being smaller in size and others with longer and larger bodies. Wasps are characterized as having smooth outer shells and three distinct sections of body: a head, a thorax, and an abdomen.

For certain types of wasps, coloration can sometimes be a very identifiable characteristic. Yellow jacket, white faced hornets, and cicada killer wasps all feature distinctive bright yellow or white horizontal striations against black bodies. However, coloration is not a defining characteristic of all wasps.

All wasps have two sets of translucent, amber-colored wings (four in total), one larger and one smaller, attached at the thorax and possess two, long antennae protruding from the head. As insects, wasps have six legs.

A sharp stinger sits at the base of the abdomen and is used as a defense mechanism. Females wasps are generally much larger than male wasps, in terms of both wing length and body length/size.

Habits/Habitat

Social wasps congregate in colonies featuring ordered structures of responsibilities and rank within. Queen wasps remain responsible for populating colonies and continuing the species over winter. Worker wasps, similar to worker bees, construct hives and forage for food.

Wasps are most active during daylight hours. Communication between the insects takes place mainly through chemical transference of pheromones. In the late fall, queens disperse from the colony to find shelter and overwinter. The rest of the colony dies off. Wasps thrive in nearly every tropical, subtropical, and temperate region on the planet. The only areas unable to sustain wasps are cold, arctic areas.

Typical wasp colonies/hives exist either underground, up in relatively undisturbed trees, or on the underside of eaves of a house or structure. Wasp nests feature tiered layers of honeycomb, wrapped in paper-like shells above ground and protected by barriers of pulp underground.

Paper wasps are known to leave honeycomb exposed to the elements without such casings. The outer casings of the nests are usually made of regurgitated bits of wood, which forms a paste and hardens into a paper-like material.

Diet

What Do Wasps Eat?
Wasps are typically broken down into two subsets, which include non-parasitic and parasitic varieties. Generally, all wasps feed on other insects as larva and feed only on nectar as adults. The parasitic type feeds on pests like spiders or other invasive insects, with larvae representing the main food source.

Non-parasitic wasps are predators and feed on similar insect types (pests and spiders) as well as dead or dying animals. In both wasp types, after paralyzing prey with their stingers, adult wasps bring unconsumed food back to feed to larvae in the nest. Overall, the wasps New England are carnivores by nature (as larvae).

Reproduction

At the end of the summer season, the queens from each nest leave the colony to find males to mate. While the rest of the colony dies out, females overwinter under the bark of trees or in fallen, rotting logs.

In New England, queen wasps may take refuge in spaces between panels of siding or shingles during the winter and then reemerge in the spring to populate new colonies. A fertile queen wasp continues to lay eggs throughout each brooding season, which spans from early spring (March/April) and runs until late fall (October/November).

The queen of each colony serves as the first worker and builds the early stages of the soon to be populated nest. The queen then lays eggs inside the newly built honeycomb cells, which hatch and cycle through larval and pupal stages before eventually reaching adulthood. When a larva reaches maturation enough to pupate, the insect will spin a silky web over the opening to its honeycomb, which serves as a protectant against the elements. The entire metamorphic process from larva to adult takes about a month.

The first adults to emerge are sterilized females, who almost immediately set to work completing further construction of the nest. Other queens and males , for reproductive purposes, are usually created much later in the season. The lifespan of an average worker or male wasp lasts between a few months and a year. Queens have been known to live for several years at a time, barring no outside threats from human beings or larger animals such as bears, mice, frogs, and other woodland creatures.

Problems Caused by Wasps

Because wasps become aggressive when threatened or agitated, infestations of the insect may result in the bodily harm of humans. Young children, unaware of the dangers of the insect, may stumble upon colonies without knowing they are present. While wasp stings are painful, they aren't necessarily fatal. However, human can become allergic to the sting and may break out in hives or rashes which may require hospitalization to remedy.

Signs of Wasp Infestation

The most notorious signs of wasp infestations are actual sightings of the insect in great clusters. Homeowners in New England may notice wasps flying in and out of a specific location in the ground only to discover a hole leading to an underground nest or regular processions of wasps flying toward eaves or swarming around trees. The actual sounds of the insect buzzing might also serve as indicators of infestation.

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Wasp Prevention

The best measure homeowners can take against wasp infestations consists of basic sanitation methods. Avoid leaving fruit or fruit-based food unattended outdoors, as the insect regularly feeds on sugary foods or proteins and is attracted to the smells.

Regularly checking trees within property lines or the eaves and overhangs of domiciles may also lead to early detection. Consulting professional exterminators may also prove viable, as chemical treatments to deter wasps from nesting are available.