On 27 January 2024 I spotted a large wasp possibly a queen common wasp which may have emerged early from hibernation (see photo). She was busy munching away at an old timber garden chair. This is strategically placed close to the back door. Handy to pop down a heavy shopping bag whilst searching for the house keys to hurriedly get indoors, especially when it is cold outside. Fortunately, this time I managed not to disturb her. Not that any of this was really stopping her from peeling off tiny wood shavings to mix with saliva to form a paper mâché like material ready to start making a brand-new nest.
This brief face to face meeting with insect royalty was at a most critical time. For at this stage the queen wasp is all alone until the first eggs hatch and develop into the first worker wasps, which take over foraging and nest building duties. The queen is then left to laying eggs for the remainder of her life until the colony dies later during the year. However, some eggs will eventually develop into next year’s queens. These will hibernate as adults during the winter ready to repeat the annual life cycle all over again.
Wasps only live for a brief time but they are well known for becoming the central characters of many summertime picnic horror stories. Therefore, they seldom generate rave reviews and quickly divide opinion if they do any good. However, research shows they are very useful pollinators, scavengers and help to control other insect pest numbers. Also, wasps are an important part of our natural ecosystems and I say this despite being stung by wasps on several occasions.