If you’ve ever seen a wasp buzzing around your house in the winter, you may have wondered where it came from. Don’t wasps die out during the winter months? The answer is both yes, and no. So, what do wasps do in the winter? Where do they go, and what happens to them? Keep reading! In this article, we’ll answer these questions and more.
What You'll Learn Today
Where Do Wasps Go in the Winter?
Most wasps die off as the weather gets colder and winter approaches. Though some die from freezing, most actually die from starvation as their main food sources disappear.
Of course, some wasps survive through the winter; otherwise, there wouldn’t be any wasps the following spring and summer.
All social wasp colonies have one or more queen wasps, which are tasked with laying all the eggs and keeping the colony going. For the sake of the colony’s survival, it is vital that the queen is kept alive.
Queen wasps mate with drone wasps in the fall as colder weather approaches. The drones die shortly after mating, and any remaining workers (the sterile females of the colony) also begin to die as food sources diminish.
Meanwhile, the queens leave the nest and go in search of a safe place to hibernate throughout the winter. They may choose your garage or attic, crevices in a wood pile, or other sheltered spots that will keep them out of the weather.
Queen wasps will stay in these sheltered spots in a semi-dormant state, sleeping most of the time and going for long periods without food or water. They will stay in this state of hibernation until the weather warms up.
Check out this video of a queen wasp hibernating through the winter.
What Happens to Wasps in the Winter?
Overwintering queens may have a much longer lifespan than other wasps, but they still face their fair share of difficulties.
As long as the days and nights stay consistently cold, the wasp will remain in hiding. But, during periods of unseasonably warm weather, the queen may emerge from her hiding place, looking for food and a place to build her nest.
After emerging, she may be unable to find her way back to the nest, and food may be too scarce to support even a lone wasp in the middle of winter. She will most likely die of starvation or will freeze to death when the weather turns cold again.
Overwintering queens also face threats from a variety of predators. For example, spiders taking shelter in attics or garages will be only too eager to snatch up an easy meal, and any weak, sluggish, hibernating wasps can make for an ideal target.
Wasps that have been hibernating inside houses may fly around on warmer days. Most people don’t like wasps flying loose in their house, so they may kill the wasp or put it outside, where it will subsequently freeze or die from lack of food.
As you can see, wasps face many dangers even when they are just trying to sleep through the winter.
Queens that survive these harsh months will live to lay their fertilized eggs the following spring; those that die effectively lead to the death of the colony, since they will be unable to build a new nest and lay their eggs when the weather warms.
At What Temperature Do Wasps Stop Flying?
Though starvation is typically what kills most wasps in the colony, the inability to gather food due to cooler temperatures is often a factor that leads to starvation.
Wasps rarely fly when the temperature is below 50 degrees F. They can technically fly for short periods of time when the temperature is close to 50 degrees, but it is very hard on their bodies and they may or may not be able to make it back to the nest before becoming paralyzed from the cold.
Though wasps don’t fly much when the temperature drops this far, 50 degrees isn’t cold enough to kill them. They will remain inactive in the nest unless the weather warms again, typically succumbing to lack of food.
Wasps will die from cold exposure only if the temperature drops below freezing, or if it is consistently below 45 degrees F for about a week. More than likely, they’ll die from starvation first.
Most of the wasps in a colony, including drones, workers, and old queens, die as the weather turns cold and food sources diminish. The new queens, who have recently mated, will leave the nest and go into hibernation; those that survive the winter will build a new nest and lay eggs the following spring, allowing the colony to continue for another year.