European wasps were accidentally introduced into Hamilton, NZ, among aircraft parts during the 1940’s and are now well established throughout NZ. In more recent years the common wasp, a much more aggressive species, appears to be well established and in some cases have taken over.
Young Queens are raised in the Autumn and after mating with the drones they hibernate in groups or individually. Except for the newly emerged young Queens, all of the community including the old Queens die in Autumn. Queens are evident in the Spring as they emerge from hibernation and start to build their own nests, lay their eggs and tend their brood.
As worker and drone numbers increase the Queen retires from work to become an egg laying machine, losing her ability to fly.
Wasps are the flying tigers of the insect world. Wood fibre (pulp) is scraped off trees, mixed with saliva and used to construct ever more cells and the nest envelope. Worker wasps make 50-80 visits per hour throughout the day. Normal foraging radius for food is 50-150 metres, very occasionally 1-2 miles. Tending to the brood 24 hours a day, wasps literally work themselves to death. Average life-span of a worker is 8-16 days.
Nest can measure from just a few centimetres up to 2 metres or more. Nest can have several hundred to tens of thousands of cells. Nests are continually enlarged and cells are cleaned and reused over and over. Cell size seems to be a determining factor in the production of Queens. Nest temperature is maintained at 28-32o degrees and hives are often used for several seasons before being deserted. Once vacated, a hive will never be used again.
Wasp migrations in any one year are on average 15km. Up to 30km have been recorded.
There are 4-5 stages of larval development before the larval seals itself into the cell upside down. 6-8 days later the pupa turns into an adult wasp.
Average time for each stage is 6-8 days. Full cycle 23-29 days. Up to 8,000 Queens are produced in just one hive in one year, ensuring that the wasp population can sustain mortality rates of 99.9% and still continue to expand. Spring weather seems to be a major factor influencing the survival of Queens and consequently the number of wasps each season.
Un-fertilised eggs are always male workers.
Both proteins and carbohydrates form important parts of the wasp’s very comprehensive diet. Flies, spiders, caterpillars, dead birds and animals are decimated and reduced to fluids before being fed to the brood larvae. Nectar, honeydew, sugars and fruit also provide a prime food and energy supply. Wasps wings beat 35-75 times per second.
Wasps can sting again and again, bees only once leaving the sting behind.
Wasps are now having a devastating effect on our NZ environment, destroying and driving out bees, significantly reducing pollination, depriving native birds and lizards of their normal insect diet and thus creating a huge imbalance in the NZ ecosystem.
Wasps numbers of up to 50,000 per hectare have been recorded here in NZ.
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