Wasps are annoying and a right pest to deal with. They can feel like a constant presence, producing loads of anxiety for anyone they get close to. When these swarmy insects show up in our homes, gardens, and outdoor activities, we can’t help but wonder how long we’ll have to put up with them.
So, how long does a wasp actually live? And do they deserve the villainous reputation we give them? Read on to find out.
A Closer Look at Wasps
It might surprise you that wasps are incredibly intelligent and complex creatures. They have an intricate social structure in their colonies, and without them, our ecosystem would be far worse off. In fact, they are a vital part of the ecosystem because they feed on various flies, caterpillars, and invertebrates, which otherwise would cause far worse problems for us. In fact, we’d be overrun with flies if not for the valuable work of wasps.
That being said, they are known for their aggression and ability to sting more than once - something their more gentle cousin, the bee, cannot do.
The Average Wasp Life Cycle
The lifecycle of a wasp starts - of course - with the Queen. When she awakes from hibernation in the spring, she finds a location to begin her nest. When she’s found the perfect place, she will build a small core nest and lay her eggs - one egg in each cell of the honeycomb-like nest. The Queen will watch over the eggs and protect them for between five to eight days, at which point the egg will hatch.
When the eggs hatch, they become larvae. Larvae are still very vulnerable and rely on the Queen for everything while they are still growing into adults. The Queen will continue to protect and feed them. Larvae will eat sugary substances and small insects that the Queen will hunt and gather. It’s crucial at this stage of a wasp’s development that they have a lot of protein (via the insects).
This process of the Queen protecting and feeding the larvae will continue for around 25 days as they grow bigger and stronger. At this time, each larva will start to spin a silk cap for themselves that goes over their cell. This begins their pupa stage, where they will transform from an immature larva into an adult worker wasp. This can take between eight and 18 days to complete.
When the larvae emerge from their pupa stage, they are full-grown wasps ready to work. The entire lifecycle from egg to adult takes around 28 to 48 days, with the environment being a significant factor in how long each wasp will take. The wasp nest of each colony plays a vital role in bringing safety to the growing insects and is explicitly designed to do this.
So, How Long Do Wasps Live For?
A Queen wasp is the longest-living member of the wasp colony and usually lives for just under a year, although she is not active over winter due to hibernation. When the nest breaks up, a new mated Queen goes into hibernation and starts the nest-building process from spring onwards. The worker wasps, however, live for much less time. They usually emerge as adults around late April and die with the nest sometime in September or October. That means the average worker wasp lives for about five or six months.
Tips for Dealing With Wasps
While it’s true that wasps are an essential part of the ecosystem and are precious members of the animal kingdom, it's also true that they are pests in certain circumstances. If you find a wasp nest in your property or workplace, given the sometimes aggressive nature of wasps, it’s advised to either stay away from them or get rid of the nest. Some ways of managing wasps are:
- Use wasp destroyer spray
- Attack at night (as wasps are diurnal)
- Treat potential future nesting areas
- Remove attractants, such as rubbish bins and other food sources
Frequently Asked Questions
How Long Can Wasps Live Indoors?
The primary variable that will predict how long a wasp will live is if it has a food source. If a wasp is trapped indoors with a food source, it can live for months. If it has no food source, it’ll likely last a few days. Some wasp species are able to survive longer without food than others.
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It’s true that wasps are an integral part of the ecosystem, and we should certainly be thankful we have them. Indeed, a life without them would be one overrun with insects. However, they can also be very aggressive and are pests in specific contexts.