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There are 5 species of social wasps (ie live in colonies) found in the UK and they are common throughout the South East. Only the queens over-winter and they build a new nest each year the old nest is never re-occupied and can be ignored. Nests are frequently built immediately over the access point so it is a good idea to leave old nests in situ as they may be blocking a hole.
Wasps can and generally will cause structural damage if the nest is built on top of plaster board. Customers frequently complain about hearing mice in the loft, but the scratching sound they hear is wasps eating the plaster board. Not long after first hearing this noise a hole will appear in the ceiling and the room fills up with wasps. Structural damage is not caused by wasps nests hanging from the rafters, under the floorboards, or any situation other than on top of plaster board. If wasps are seen entering the loft space going in under the guttering and a nest cannot be seen, then it may be under the loft insulation and on top of the plaster board. You cannot check by lifting the loft insulation as this may rip the nest apart leaving you in a serious situation.
Wasps communicate by pheromones and when they sting, or get annoyed, they spray a pheromone into the air which attracts others who will attack the perceived source of danger. Unlike bees, wasps can sting repeatedly.
Queen wasps emerge from hibernation in April/May and start a new colony. She lays about 12 eggs in a nest the size of a small golf ball. The queen must feed the larvae and most nests do not progress beyond the golf ball size, as the queen dies. From egg to adult takes 28 days, after which the queen remains in the nest for the rest of her life and the colony can grow in size to over 10,000 by September.
The common wasp (Vespula Vulgaris), as the name suggests is the most common in the UK. The German wasp (Vespula Germanica) is the next most common. It is similar in colour, but slightly larger and more aggressive. The Norwegian Wasp (Vespula Norvetiga) nests outside in bushes and trees. The nests are frequently hidden in the middle of bushes and are not discovered until the hedge is trimmed. They are extremely aggressive and attack in numbers. These should always be treated by professionals. Tree wasps (Vespula Dolichova), hang their rather small nests in bushes. They are a recent import to SE England, but are spreading rapidly. They are smaller than common wasps and extremely aggressive. Hornets (Vespula crabro) are the largest of UK wasps, but are the least aggressive to humans.
The beneficial effects of wasps is that they kill huge numbers of black fly, which they feed to their young. In late summer they switch from protein to carbohydrate and sugars and feed on fruit. At this stage they become more aggressive. Apart from structural damage to plaster board, they present a major nuisance and they can present a serious health hazard to those with allergic reactions. Wasps cannot be moved as they will always return to the original site of their nest.
Treatment is by injecting the nest with an insecticide powder. The nest cannot be removed immediately, it needs to be left for 24 hours so that returning foragers are also killed. Nests are often built immediately over the entrance point, so if left in place, the old nest will seal the hole. However, new regulations came into effect in 2019 requiring nests containing insecticide to be removed. This you can do quite safely yourself, but there would be an additional charge if we had to remove it.
Treatment is always successful and is cheap, it takes a couple of minutes and all the wasps die within about an hour. For the sake of a small fee, it is never worthwhile trying to deal with wasps yourself.
Company director David Piper has been a professional beekeeper for 30 years and is a keen biologist, holding a degree in the subject and his business has grown from his interest in nature. His philosophy is that whilst we must protect ourselves from diseases spread by pests, the preferred option is moving them along instead of killing them. This particularly applies to bee control, as they would only be killed in very exceptional circumstances.