Seeing more wasps this year? Here’s why

An Eastern yellowjacket on a leaf By Paul Reeves Photography/Shutterstock

Has your patio season been plagued by wasps? You’re probably not alone: pest control companies in B.C., for example, have reported being abuzz with calls for wasp removal this year. While wasps play an important part of ecosystems by keeping pests in check, their stingers can certainly put a damper on festivities if they’ve chosen your cottage as the place to build their paper nests.

Aaron Fairweather, a post-doctoral fellow studying entomology at the University of Guelph, says that food availability and time of year are both factors that can contribute to increased wasp populations. “This year in particular was a fairly early spring,” they say, “and so we can potentially get more of these wasps showing up.”

A mild winter could also explain a boost in wasp numbers. Fairweather says that fall is the time when a colony’s worker wasps will abandon their paper nests and seal up their queen inside. This is for the queen’s own good—she will overwinter in the nest’s core chamber until spring arrives. Milder temperatures increase the chance that a queen wasp survives the winter and starts a new colony come springtime.

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Fairweather also points out that increased calls to pest control groups could be a matter of perspective. If people are spending lots of time outdoors, it’s possible they’re just noting wasps more and calling them in.

If a wasp colony does build its nest in a high traffic area around your cottage—a doorframe, for example—it’s a good idea to call in a professional to get rid of it, says Fairweather. Vibrations from walking around the nest can provoke wasps to aggression.

“I highly recommend asking a professional to get rid of them rather than buying chemicals yourself or trying to deal with it by some other method,” says Fairweather. Calling in the experts will ensure that the right chemicals are used in the right places. Professional exterminators will also know how to remove the queen wasp instead of just the workers, they add.

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But if wasps make their home somewhere where you won’t be interacting with the nest, consider sharing your space with them. Wasps are beneficial to the backyard ecosystem—they will eat invasive pests such Japanese beetles, not to mention chow down on mosquitoes, says Fairweather. A live and let live policy goes a long way with wasps, they say. “If you don’t make them angry or swat them, they’re going to just leave you be.”

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