Return of the wasps is a good thing

The 2011 drought caused a dramatic reduction in the population of many insects and spiders. The most obvious decline was in the wasp population.

During 2011, there were no wasp nests on the front porch of the little farmhouse that serves as my office. There were no wasps this spring, and many other insects also were missing.

Where dozens of carpenter bees used to buzz, only one or two were present. Honeybees were very scarce, as were spiders.

The first paper wasps arrived in June. I don’t know if they were survivors from the drought or if they blew in from elsewhere. Whatever their origin, the reality of their presence sank in after two stung me when I inadvertently disturbed their nest while adjusting an outdoor security light.

When paper wasps build their nests in out-of-the-way places, it’s best to leave them alone. But action is needed when wasp nests appear on or near doors, swings, low-hanging branches and other places where people might get too close. It’s especially important to protect children and people who are subject to allergic reactions from wasp stings.

When I was growing up in Houston, older relatives removed wasp nests with a torch at the end of a long pole. Today, a variety of products can do the job with a powerful stream of insecticide that can be applied from a safe distance. More safety is assured by doing the job after sunset to protect against an attack from angry survivors.

Recently, while trimming some brush, I looked up and saw a large nest of paper wasps only inches away. Fortunately, they were as surprised as I was, and none attacked. Now that I know the location of that nest, there’s no reason to kill those wasps. They still are there today doing what they do best by harvesting unwanted caterpillars that might otherwise be defoliating trees and shrubs.

Though their population is still low, spiders have begun to return. This is good news for wasps that capture spiders to feed their young. Recently, my wife, Minnie, and I watched two red wasps drag spiders they had paralyzed with their sting back to their nests.

As for the wasps that stung me, I brushed their nest away one night with a broom and moved the security light a few inches away. The wasps soon rebuilt their nest and have never shown any concern when I reach up to turn the light on or off twice a day. It’s almost as if we have developed a mutual respect, or at least a tolerance, for one another.


Forrest Mims III, an amateur scientist whose research has appeared in leading scientific journals, was named one of the “50 Best Brains in Science” by Discover Magazine. His science is featured at Email him at [email protected].

Return of the wasps is a good thing
wasps stung – Yahoo! News Search Results
wasps stung – Yahoo! News Search Results

This entry was posted in Wasps Nest. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.