Wasps, along with bees and ants, belong to one of the largest insect groups, the Order Hymenoptera. In Australia there are over 12,000 species. No other group of insects is as essential to human survival. Most wasps are predators or parasites of other insects and keep their numbers under control. Introduced pest insects have been successfully controlled by also introducing their wasp parasite. Orchids need some flower wasps to pollinate them, and many of the world’s fig trees need the minute fig wasp for the same reason.
Most wasps have two transparent wings with a few veins and forewings that are larger than the hind wings. They have a waist in the middle of their body. Larvae have no legs and look like maggots. Some wasps have wingless females that resemble ants, but their antennae is not elbowed like ants.
From egg to larvae to pupa to adult, the wasp undergoes what is known as an abrupt metamorphosis which means that the larvae bear absolutely no resemblance to the final product. For example, the larvae have no evidence of wing buds. In the pupa stage, the tissues are completely rearranged and a perfect adult wasp emerges.
Most wasps are distributed throughout Australia but their habitats vary depending on their type. Mud-dauber and potter wasps gather mud from creek banks and dams to make their nests. Predatory wasps may burrow into the ground to make their nests or use an abandoned burrow in wood, or make a nest from mud. Paper wasps chew weathered wood and mix it with saliva to make a cell. Each cell is joined to another to make a comb which is attached to a surface like a rock or branch.
Food sources depend on the type of wasp. Some types feed on nectar and pollen, while parasitic and predatory wasps search for hosts or prey on tree trunks or on the ground among vegetation. Predatory wasps use their sting to paralyse their prey, usually other insects, and bring them back to the nest to feed the larvae. Parasitic wasps lay their eggs inside their prey, and when the larvae hatch, they feed on the live host.
Detrimental Effects to Humans and Property
Because most wasps are solitary, the risk of being stung is small with the exception of the paper wasp. This social wasp can form a large colony, especially as the nest keeps expanding while the weather is warm. This can result in a nest up to 200mm across that contains hundreds of wasps. If the nest is disturbed, paper wasps become aggressive and will come out fighting in numbers. This poses the biggest risk to humans especially if there are large numbers of wasps inflicting multiple stings.
Apart from the pain they can trigger an allergic reaction which, if severe enough, requires immediate medical attention. This is known as anaphylactic shock and can be fatal without medical intervention.
If the nest is large enough to house hundreds of wasps, and close enough to human habitation to be of concern, it is best to leave destroying it to the experts who will have the required protective gear.
The team at Bob Gunn Termite Solutions are trained, experienced and licensed to advise on the best method for dealing with wasps, and will offer a solution that suits each individual circumstance.