Wasps and bees
What they look like
All the wasps found in the United Kingdom, with the exception of the hornet, are very similar with black and yellow bands on their body and two pairs of wings.
Where they live
In spring, the fertilised queen leaves her hibernating quarters to seek nesting sites for a new colony. These sites could be holes in the ground, hollow trees, sheds, loft spaces or wall cavities. The queen starts to build her nest with a papery material that she makes by chewing wood mixed with saliva; this is known as wasp paper. She will raise the first few workers who will then enlarge the nest and care for the immature wasps. Nest construction starts in spring and will reach its maximum size in September, when up to 10,000 workers may be present. An old nest is not used in subsequent years.
What they eat
Wasps usually eat insects, which are mainly garden or household pests. They also feed on dustbin waste and animal carcasses.
Why wasps can be a pest
Wasps become a nuisance to humans mainly in late summer as the weather gets cooler when they become more likely to sting. A wasp, unlike a bee, can sting many times. Although the wasp sting is not normally serious, it can be very painful, and in certain cases can cause a severe reaction.
What you can do to control the problem
Nests located in areas away from human contact can be left untreated. It should be remembered that wasps have a beneficial aspect as they kill many garden insect pests.
However, if it is necessary to destroy the nest, it is easy to do so. Wasps are generally easy to control if the nest is destroyed by applying a residual insecticide. This will be in either a dust or liquid form and is applied to the nest entrance or nearby so that wasps entering the nest are contaminated.
How the council can help
- you are strongly recommended to seek professional help in dealing with a problem wasp nest. Ealing's pest control team can provide this service at a moderate charge. Alternatively, commercial pest control companies are listed in the Yellow Pages and Thomson's Local Directory
- consider the risks very carefully before attempting treatment yourself. Wasps are very aggressive when their nest is threatened, and multiple stings may result if your protective clothing is inadequate
- if you do decide to treat the nest yourself, suitable products can be purchased from hardware shops and garden centres. You must first locate the entrance to the nest. Following the flight pattern of returning wasps may help. Treatment should be carried out very early and late in the day when activity is at a minimum. Apply the insecticide to the entrance of the nest, or directly on to the nest if it is visible. Keep well away from the treated nest for at least 24 hours
Note: when using pesticides always follow the instructions on the label.
The most common species in this country are the honeybee, bumblebee, and masonry bee. Bees have important benefits, acting as pollinators of many fruit trees and other plants, and are not considered as pests.
Colonies of bees consist of a queen, a small number of males or drones and a large number of worker bees. The workers feed the queen who produces up to 2,000 eggs per day. A queen bee will leave a colony when a new one emerges. A number of the colony's workers accompany her, forming what is known as a swarm, which then forms a new colony.
Bumblebees are close relatives of the honeybee but are larger. A bumblebee colony will only last for a single season. Only a few young mated queens survive and spend the winter in hibernation. Bees will sting people if they are strongly provoked.
Note: the council does not provide a control service for bees but can offer advice and has a list of beekeepers who are able to help the public.