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Wasps & Ants

Common Wasps and German Wasps

waspsBoth species of wasps are common throughout Britain. Wasps are social insects, forming colonies inside nests specially constructed in the ground, in cavities, trees and walls, and very frequently in roof spaces. Wasps are approx. 10 to 20 mm long and have the famous black and yellow stripes. Wasps are probably the only insect that everybody knows instantly, and what it is capable of doing, delivering painful and sometimes fatal stings.

The main hazard of wasps is the risk of ‘anaphylactic shock’ which can arise from even a single wasp sting. Wasps also visit dustbins, waste depots and dead animal bodies which can lead to the spread of disease and contamination of foodstuffs.

Biology of Common Wasps & German Wasps

The over-wintering and fertilised queen wasp emerges from hibernation around mid April and searches for a suitable site for her colony. From chewed bark and dried timber mixed with saliva she makes the initial "cell" which is around the size of a golf ball. Within individual chambers inside this cell she lays between 10 and 20 eggs feeding the resultant larvae on insects and other invertebrates. The emergent first brood of adult workers (sterile female wasps) takes over the task of enlarging the wasp's nest and providing food for the subsequent eggs laid by the queen. By late summer, the average wasp's nest will contain between 3 to 5 thousand wasps and be up to 30 cm across. During the latter part of the summer males and young queens emerge (fertile female wasps), mating takes place, and the fertilised queens fly away to select suitable over-wintering sites. With the onset of cooler weather, the worker wasps and few remaining males become sluggish, and their feeding on ripe and over-ripe fruit can produce a "tipsy" behaviour leading to aggression towards anyone interfering with them. Cold winter weather kills off all the worker and male wasps, with only fertilised queens surviving individually in hibernation, ready to start new colonies the following spring.

Old wasp's nests are not re-used although a new nest may be built close to an old one.

As a general rule, you should not attempt to treat wasps nests by yourself, it is likely to be difficult and potentially dangerous. On no account should you remove a nest from the roof space without advice first. Play safe and leave it to the experts!.

Common Black Ants / Garden Ant

AntsAnts are found in many parts of the world, and frequently throughout the UK close to and in association with man's dwellings. Ants have a well defined social structure and a wide range of tastes. It is usually the sexually  infertile female ants, the workers, that are seen away from the nest. Ant's nests may survive for many years but young queens leave the nest as 'flying ants' and start new ones each year.

Foraging worker ants can become a nuisance but not normally a health risk unlike some of the tropical ants such as the Pharaoh's Ant. Sexual forms, 'flying ants' may emerge in large numbers close to or inside houses and other buildings.

Biology of Black Ants / Garden Ants

A new social colony of Black Ants starts with a mated winged female ant digging into the earth to produce a small cell. A variable and eventually large number of white eggs are laid by the queen ant, these hatch after 3-4 weeks into white legless grubs. The female feeds them on nourishing secretions from her salivary glands and after about 3 weeks the larvae are mature and pupate within the cell.

After about 2 weeks the adult ants emerge from the pupae. This first generation will be entirely composed of worker ants which will now tend to both the queen ant and subsequent larvae by bringing food back to the nest. The worker ants also extend and enlarge the nest, clean out the nest of excreta and inedible rubbish, and actively protect the queen, larvae, pupae and eggs.

Sometime in the late summer, winged sexually mature male ants and large female ants will be produced and emerge in large numbers over a short period of time. The winged ants fly away, mating on the wing, and eventually settling exhausted!. The male ants usually die quickly and only a small proportion of the mated females survive to form new colonies.

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