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Animal Life
Wasps and Hornets

Are wasps a problem?

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October 10, 2012 3:52PM

Generally, wasps are not a problem, they are not bad in nature. However, if they build their nests in areas frequented by humans (such as in a work shed or near a front door), this can become inconvenient for the humans, and is often the reason people get stung. Once wasps establish a nest, even if very small, the wasps have the innate (or in-born) desire to defend that nest. Their eye sight is quite good, in many cases, and if you watch carefully as you walk by a nest, the wasps will turn watching you as you walk by.

If left unchecked, some paper wasp generations will often return to the same nest year-after-year, the nest will often continue to get larger as wasps continue to raise their young. I have seen some paper wasp nests in protected areas become several layers of nests over time. The nests can become quite large (upwards of 12 inches across) with perhaps 30 or 40 wasp individuals hanging out at the nest.

Wasps that build their nests with mud (mud dabbers' being a good example) can become problematic in another way. I know of a very old home near Placerville, California, which has existed since the 1800's. A friend living there had need of some help in his attic. I made the climb and, to my astonishment, found the entire inside of the roof covered with layers upon layers of mud wasp nests. This amounted to hundreds of pounds of dried mud, in essence, plastering the entire underside of my friend's roof. In the perhaps more than 150 years since the home was build, no one had ever done anything to eliminate this problem, and wasps had established this as a good place to build their nests for untold generations. There was enough mud covering this surface to make me concerned for a potential roof collapse, especially if a heavy snow occurred.

Wasps can be a problem for people who might be allergic to the wasp venom. But, like with any allergen, individuals with a potential for allergic reactions just need to be more vigilant than the average person. Wasps are a very needed part of our natural environment. Without them, we could easily become overrun with insects, spiders, and other related small life forms, which are the food for many wasp species. Other wasps are involved with the pollination of many plants, a necessary act that helps in the production of food and seed.