Everything you ever wanted to know about annoying, buzzing, stinging wasps

Wasps Photo by Timin/Shutterstock.

This article was originally published in the Fall 2016 issue of Cottage Life magazine.

We answer your questions about the most notorious nuisance in cottage country.

Is it true that wasps are attracted to sweet things?

Show us a bowl of berries, a birthday cake, or a root beer on a cottage deck, and we’ll show you one curious wasp—followed by several pals. Mature wasps gather protein meals such as caterpillars, aphids, and flies for larvae, but chiefly seek out sugar-laden diets for themselves. (Tip: if you’ve got fallen or rotting fruit on your property, bury it deep in the compost pile.) Wasps’ weakness for sweets may work in your favour. Lure them to a dish of water and apple juice laced with dish soap: they’ll drown.

So, wasps can sting multiple times but bees can’t, right?

Right! Sort of: honey-bee stingers have barbs that lodge in the stingee’s flesh; the bee can’t pull its stinger back out without also ripping off a portion of its abdomen and digestive tract. Wasps’ stingers don’t have these barbs. So a wasp can sting, in theory, an unlimited number of times, but the bee is mortally injured. Muhammad Ali’s mantra might have been more accurate if instead it were “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee that knows how to cheat death.”

Can a wasp sting you if it’s dead?

Yes. (Gah!) The stinger can still release venom. Don’t touch it.

Are there really “killer” wasps?

Well, there’s the Asian giant hornet. It’s about four times the size of our wasps, but you won’t find it here. It’s native to eastern Asia, and its sting can cause cardiac arrest and organ failure.

Do wasps eat wood?

Wasps eat (or collect for larvae) nectar, honeydew, insects, and carrion. They chew wood, to make their nests from pulp and saliva. Ah, home sweet home.

I’ve heard that wasps don’t sting at night. Is that true?

That’s false. Wasps can sting 24-7. But they’re less active at night (which is why night is usually the best time to remove a nest).

Why was the “wasp waist” ever in fashion? It’s so freaky!

We think so too, but Keira Knightley and her damn Chanel outfits spent a good portion of 2014 trying to bring it back.