Return of the Wasps – Seguin Gazette-Enterprise

Posted: Tuesday, August 14, 2012 12:00 am

Updated: 5:12 pm, Mon Aug 13, 2012.

Return of the Wasps

Forrest Mims III

Seguin Gazette


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 were also 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 its 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 are still there today doing what they do best by harvesting unwanted caterpillars that might otherwise be defoliating trees and shrubs.

If you encounter a nest late in the season we suggest you read our page on late season nests.

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, 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 E-mail him at [email protected].

© 2012 Seguin Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Tuesday, August 14, 2012 12:00 am.

Updated: 5:12 pm.


Return of the Wasps – Seguin Gazette-Enterprise
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