Why Do Wasps Build Nests?

A close up picture of a wasp nest with young wasp larvae and wasps working

Wasps build nests in order to provide a safe place to raise their brood and store any food that they may need.

Most people associate wasp nests with social wasps, particularly paper wasps. Because social wasps live in colonies, they build large nests that can accommodate many wasps. [1]

A female queen wasp emerges from hibernation in the spring and begins to search for a place to nest. They search for crevices in trees or overhangs of buildings where their wasp nests will be safe from predators and human activity.

Queen wasps build nests in the spring. A new colony will form in the wasps’ nest as the queen lays eggs, which will develop over the summer into a functioning hive.

A wasp’s nest serves primarily to protect the queen wasp’s offspring and provide a home for them. When the offspring become adult wasps, they will return to the wasp’s nest as their home throughout the summer season.

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    How Do Wasps Build Nests?

    It is most commonly observed that wasps build their nests by mixing saliva and wood together. In order to create paper pulp, they mix wood shavings with saliva and then form the mixture into a wasp nest. [2]

    Many wasp nests contain hundreds of tiny hexagonal cells in which the queen wasp will lay its eggs and raise its young.

    Building a wasp’s nest begins with the construction of a few of these hexagonal cells, which are then expanded to include hundreds or thousands of cells.

    When these cells have been completed, the wasps add further layers of paper to encapsulate the nest, protecting it from predators and disease. [3]

    By chewing up the wood and softening it with their saliva and mandibles, the wasps produce a pulpy paper-like texture. In order to construct the wasps’ nest, they use their mandibles and legs to place wood where they wish, forming their cells and exterior walls.

    loads of wasps working to raise the larvae in their nest
    The number of wasps in a nest will vary significantly, but larger nests can contain up to 10,000 individuals when summer is at its peak.

    In order to build their nests, solitary wasps burrow into the ground, dig tunnels, and construct brood cells. When solitary wasps build their nests, they remove dirt from the ground using their mandibles and legs, leaving small piles of dirt in the area around their nest entrance.

    The nest of a solitary wasp may be located deep in the ground and may be quite long. Unless the wasps are flying in and out of the hole while foraging, one cannot see them from the outside.

    Due to the presence of more insects within social wasp nests, identifying a solitary wasp nest is more difficult than finding a social wasp nest.

    Where Do Wasps Build Nests?

    Wasps build their nests in places that are dry and safe, such as hollow trees or crevices in man-made structures like houses. Some wasps build their nests underground, while others construct them in the open.

    As a result of the wood supply and protection provided by houses, many wasps prefer to build nests on people’s houses.

    A wasp builds its nest under the eaves of houses, on the peaks of garages, and in other locations where wood is abundant and there is protection from the elements.

    small wasp nest in the eaves of a house
    It is not likely that the wasps within the nest will return to an old nest once they have completed their normal life cycle. It is possible, however, that they will build a new nest close to an existing one.

    Solitary wasps prefer to build nests in the ground, in soil that is easily dug. There are some wasp species that prefer sandy soil because it is easier to remove from the ground. A slanted area, such as a riverbank or hill, is more suitable to build a wasp’s nest for other species.

    Like some social wasps, some solitary wasps build nests in people’s homes. This is usually done by solitary wasps when the home is located near a food source or is constructed from materials that are suitable for digging, such as mortar.

    Why Do Wasps Build Their Nest Near People's Homes?

    The reason why wasps build nests near houses is that these structures generally include overhangs and strong beams that enable them to safely build their nests.

    Even so, it is pertinent to note that wasps actually prefer to be away from human activity as humans can disrupt their brooding and foraging processes.

    Nests of wasps are often built in garages or under the eaves of houses, where they are protected from the elements but far enough away from humans to be safe.

    In general, wasp nests do not need to be removed unless construction is taking place on a home, as most wasps are not aggressive.

    In addition, wasps prefer to build their nests near people’s homes because they are attracted to places where there is a plentiful supply of wood. As many houses are made of wood, wasps have a ready supply of building materials nearby.

    How to Identify a Wasp Nest

    A wasp nest can be identified by its large sphere appearance made up of a substance that resembles newspaper.

    There is a grayish-white color to wasp nests, which may appear somewhat flaky or papery. The size of a wasp nest can be comparable to that of a football or even a basketball.

    Nests of solitary wasps are mostly underground, and only one wasp lives in each nest. Nests of these wasps are more challenging to locate and recognize than those of social wasps. It is possible to identify a solitary wasp nest by observing a small hole in the ground surrounding a pile of dirt.

    a large wasp nest on the branch of a tree with wasps crawling on the outside
    In the winter, only newly mated queen wasps hibernate until they emerge in the spring to build new nests.

    In addition, there are mud dauber wasps, which build their nests from mud formed into cells. You can identify these wasp nests as balls of mud caked up into spheres.

    When one finds a wasp nest, one normally finds wasps as well. A wasp nest can be easily identified by observing the wasps that surround it and fly in and out of it.

    How Long Does a Wasp Nest Last?

    A single wasp inside its nest taking care of the larvae

    As wasp nests are fairly sturdy constructions, they can last for a very long time after the wasps have died. 

    It is possible to see empty wasp nests at any time of the year, even during the winter months. In the winter, however, they will not contain any wasps.

    In general, wasp nests are only occupied during the warmer months, with peak populations occurring in the autumn. The wasps die off as winter approaches, leaving only the queen to overwinter.

    There is no danger of a wasp returning to a previously constructed nest to make a new home the following season as wasp nests are never reused. It is possible, however, that they may construct a new nest near an old wasp nest.

    Difference Between Bee Nest and Wasp Nest

    Social Bee Nest Social Wasp Nest
    Appearance Often brownish yellow, sometimes not visible if built in crevices. Large, gray, papery spheres.
    Material Almost always made from beeswax secreted by the bees. Typically made from chewed up paper pulp, including wood and saliva mixed together.
    Location Typically either in a beehive or within a cavity in a tree or other surface. Often found hanging from the eaves of houses or built into cavities in trees.
    Size Typically built to fit inside whatever crevice the bees have found to nest in. Up to the size of a football, but can be small at first.

    How to Prevent a Wasp Nest

    When a house is regularly treated for pests, then wasps are less likely to build nests. This is because some wasps feed on other insects, and they are attracted to food sources. 

    The presence of flowers also attracts wasps to nest in an area. In order to prevent wasps from nesting directly on houses, flowerbeds should be kept at a distance from houses. The planting of flowers very close to the house will attract wasps to nest in the eaves.

    Several species of wasp feed on decomposing materials and may be attracted to trash. You can prevent wasps from nesting in an area by keeping trash in secure trash cans away from the house.

    Additionally, wasps are known to feed on fruit from fruit trees or berry bushes in the fall. Therefore, it is imperative to keep all rotting fruit away from the ground to prevent nesting. 

    Netting can also be used to cover fruit trees and berry bushes to prevent wasps from being attracted to them.

    How to Safely Remove a Wasp Nest

    If you wish to safely remove a wasp nest, you should leave it to professionals. There are, however, other options available, such as using toxic wasp spray to kill all the wasps in the nest, in order to keep them from returning.

    In spite of the fact that wasp spray is designed to kill wasps without harming humans, it is still imperative that people wear gloves and eye protection when using the spray, as it is highly toxic.

    Wasp nests can be safely removed by spraying the nest, the surrounding area, and any nearby wasps with wasp spray. Make sure to have a quick exit route in case the wasps in the nest become agitated.

    When wasps feel threatened, they will sting, and wasp spray will certainly cause them to feel threatened.

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