If you’ve ever gotten too close to a wasp nest, you’ve undoubtedly had to pay for it in the form of multiple painful stings. Maybe you weren’t even trying to disturb the nest, but the wasps overreacted and stung you anyway. Perhaps this caused you to wonder: why are wasps so aggressive?
Why do they sting for apparently no reason sometimes? Are wasps stings dangerous, and what are some of the most dangerous wasps out there? Keep reading as we explore the answers to these questions.
What You'll Learn Today
Why Do Wasps Behave Aggressively?
Wasps, like all insects, have to look out for themselves and their nest mates in order to survive. While some insects are more inclined to run away or hide from danger, others, such as wasps, prefer to stay and fight.
In fact, wasps are known and often feared for their aggressive behavior. Certain types of wasps, such as hornets and yellow jackets, are notorious for their vicious attacks on anyone who gets too close to their nest.
There are thousands of wasp species divided broadly into two categories: social and solitary wasps. While members of both species can sting, social wasps tend to be more aggressive than solitary wasps because solitary wasps live alone and don’t have large colonies to defend.
Regardless of the type of wasp, however, there are several reasons why it may become aggressive and attempt to sting you. These reasons are, as follows:
- Wasps are territorial: This is especially true of social wasps, but also of certain types of solitary wasps. If you or any other intruder enters their territory, they will do what it takes to defend the area–especially if you get close to a nest housing the queen wasp and all the larvae.
- They may feel threatened: Say you go to put on shoes that have been left outside for a period of time, and a wasp is taking shelter or even attempting to build a nest inside one of the shoes. If you put your foot in the shoe, the wasp will recognize the imminent danger and sting you.
A wasp may accidently get inside your clothes, pressed between your body and another hard surface, or threatened in some other way that requires immediate action. Even something as benign as getting too close to a nest you didn’t know was there may make the resident wasps feel threatened, prompting them to launch an attack.
- They may be desperate: Some people have observed that wasps behave more aggressively in the fall. This is most likely because food is becoming more scarce, so wasps will become more and more aggressive as their hunger increases.
In short, late-season wasps become increasingly desperate as food disappears and their colonies begin to starve.
Why Do Wasps Sting For No Reason?
Simply put, they don’t. Wasps always have a reason for stinging you; we discussed some of the most common reasons above.
It is true that wasps have a reputation for being aggressive, and this often leads to the appearance that they attack and sting without reason.
With this in mind, it’s safe to assume that wasps are more jumpy than other insects, and that they seem to feel threatened more easily. While other insects, such as honey bees, will sting only when they have no other option, it’s possible that wasps use their stingers more liberally because they know that doing so won’t hurt them–unlike honey bees, wasps are capable of stinging over and over again.
Wasps will sting to protect their nest, their queen, their larvae, or themselves. Some species are known for getting more aggressive than others–yellow jackets, for example, will swarm and sting repeatedly if their nest is disturbed.
In fact, most social wasps will sting repeatedly if the threat continues. Sometimes just your presence feels threatening to them; in this case, they will sting you, calling to their nest mates for reinforcements, and will continue the attack until you get away from the area.
Whatever their reason for stinging, wasps always have one. They don’t sting for no reason.
Check out this video of a nest of yellow jackets attacking a stationary camera that was set up too close to their nest.
What is the Most Dangerous Type of Wasp?
In general, wasps are not dangerous to humans. Yes, their stings are unpleasant and may cause localized pain and swelling, but most of the time, you don’t have to worry about dying from a wasp sting.
That said, any wasp can become extremely dangerous if you have an anaphylactic reaction to getting stung. This severe allergic reaction can cause a host of symptoms such as hives, dizziness, and extreme swelling; it will cause blood pressure to fall, airways to constrict, and can even cause death if not treated promptly.
Those who know they are allergic to wasp stings often have an EpiPen, or self-injectable epinephrine, to diminish the symptoms long enough to get to a hospital in the event they are stung. For those who don’t have an EpiPen available, it is absolutely vital they are rushed to a hospital immediately.
Certain types of wasps are more well-known to cause allergic reactions than others. For example, studies have suggested that certain species of yellow jackets seem to cause more severe reactions than others, suggesting they have a more lethal venom.
On the other hand, many species of wasp don’t even sting humans. Wasps tend to get a bad reputation because of the aggressive nature of hornets, yellow jackets, and even paper wasps, but there are far greater numbers of wasps in the world that pose no threat to humans at all.
Wasps behave aggressively when they are defending their nest or themselves from danger, whenever an intruder enters their territory, and whenever they are beginning to starve during food shortages.
They never sting without a reason, but they don’t take threats lightly and may attack sooner than other insects would rather than first trying to escape the danger.