Frequently asked questions about wasps

Below are a number of FAQs about wasps.  Please note the answers mostly will relate to our most common species.

Are bees related to wasps?  What’s the connection between wasps and bees?

Both bees and wasps belong to the insect order, hymenoptera.   Bees are believed to be descended from wasps.

What is the point of wasps?
Wasps are helpful pollinators, they control ‘crop pests’  and (with some species) their nests may provide homes for other beneficial insects!  Read more here.

What's the difference between bees and  wasps?
The main difference is that wasps feed 'meat', in the form of other insects - especially larvae, to their offspring.  This is not the case with bees (although there is an exception to this fact).  Indeed, wasps will even target bee larvae as a food for their offspring, but bees do not eat wasps or their larvae.  You can read more about it here.

Where do wasps build nests?
It depends on the type of wasp, but most commonly they may be found hanging from structures such as a branch or fascia of a building, or they may be in the ground.  Wasps may also nest in compost heaps.  Learn more about wasp nests
A wasp nest is genuinely a fantastic structure - a large colony can produce a nest as complex and amazing as the combs produced by honey bees! 

Wasps are disliked by many people, but they are genuinely amazing creatures!  I recommend this book (right) to inspire children (as well as adults who look at it!).

Wasps have great value, and their nests are architectural works of art. Education is key!

Do wasps attack or kill bees?

Much of the time, you will see wasps and bees foraging happily and close together
- I see this every year on my raspberries.  However, it is a fact that wasps may sometimes venture into bee nests and take larvae for their young.  A wasp may succeed in this task, but its success will depend on a number of factors.  For example, a single wasp will have no chance against a honey bee colony, or indeed, an established bumble bee colony.  A large number of wasps could, however, inflict damage on a colony. They will also rob the honey stores (well beekeepers do that too of course, but without killing the bees and larvae).  This is a distressing thought, but it must be remembered that wasps too, have their survival problems.  Humans kill animals for meat (and fish too!) - but humans will also kill for the sake of it, and will waste a shocking amount of food, even after killing for it.  Humans indirectly kill bees by destroying their habitat and using insecticides.  Not that I think all humans are bad, but please remember the value of wasps when formulating your opinion of them.

Where do wasps hibernate?
Single queens may find protected shelter in a variety of places, from crevices in walls and trees, to a sheltered spot in the roof of the garden shed.  We have found sleepy common wasp queens in the attic of our house.  Read about the life cycle of wasps.


Where do wasps go in winter?
In social wasps, commonly the whole colony will die, and only the queens will hibernate or overwinter somehwere sheltered (see above).

There may be some differences in various parts of the world.

Which trees attract wasps?
Whether or not a tree will attract wasps will partly depend on the stage of the wasp colony and the range of plants and trees available upon which the wasps can forage.  I have seen wasps foraging on cotoneaster flowers.
Soft fruits such as plums attract wasps especially later in the summer as they may wish to feed on the sweet, ripe fruit.  If you wish to distract them away from seating areas, choose a place in your garden away from the home, and try leaving banana skins and discarded fruit and apple cores in that place.  Wear a pair of thick gloves, and pick up or sweep away soft fruit and wind falls at night (wear protective clothing, just in case!).  Move them to the back of the garden, out of the way.

How can I treat wasp stings and how can I repel wasps?
They are important pest controllers and pollinators, so try to repel or deter wasps – see these tips on repelling wasps and avoiding stings.  There are various treatments for stings.  Various wasps are becoming increasingly important for farmers to assist in controlling crop pests.

Which wasps have the worst sting and which wasps are aggressive?
German wasps and the common wasp can become agitated if they feel under threat.   When the colony grows, there is more competition for food and space, this may be when they are more likley to become agigitated - i.e. towrd the end of the season.  however, I have never, ever been stung by a wasp, despite having nests in our garden, and one in the attic one year.

What if I kill a wasp?
You will probably attract more of them!  If you are genuinely afraid of wasps, there are plenty of practical steps you can take to discourage them from your garden and repel them so that they do not sting you.

Body Snatcher Wasps!

Why are farmers turning to wasps to help them control crop eating pests?


Remove wasps without killing them


Not many people like wasps, but they have an important role in the ecosystem!

Read more