How many wasps are in the world

Wasps make up an enormously diverse array of insects, with some 30,000 identified species. We are most familiar with those that are wrapped in bright warning colors—ones that buzz angrily about in groups and threaten us with painful stings.

But most wasps are actually solitary, non-stinging varieties. And all do far more good for humans by controlling pest insect populations than harm.

Differences From Bees

Wasps are distinguishable from bees by their pointed lower abdomens and the narrow “waist,” called a petiole, that separates the abdomen from the thorax.

They come in every color imaginable, from the familiar yellow to brown, metallic blue, and bright red. Generally, the brighter colored species are in the Vespidae, or stinging wasp, family.

All wasps build nests. Whereas bees secrete a waxy substance to construct their nests, wasps create their familiar papery abodes from wood fibers scraped with their hard mandibles and chewed into a pulp.

Social vs. Solitary Wasps

Wasps are divided into two primary subgroups: social and solitary. Social wasps account for only about a thousand species and include formidable colony-builders, like yellow jackets and hornets.

Social wasp colonies are started from scratch each spring by a queen who was fertilized the previous year and survived the winter by hibernating in a warm place. When she emerges, she builds a small nest and rears a starter brood of worker females. These workers then take over expanding the nest, building multiple six-sided cells into which the queen continually lays eggs. By late summer, a colony can have more than 5,000 individuals, all of whom, including the founding queen, die off at winter. Only newly fertilized queens survive the cold to restart the process in spring.

Solitary wasps, by far the largest subgroup, do not form colonies. This group includes some of the wasp family’s largest members, like cicada killers and the striking blue-and-orange tarantula hawks, which can both reach 1.5 inches in length. Whereas social wasps use their stingers only for defense, stinging solitary wasps rely on their venom to hunt.

Most animals have developed a well-earned fear of stinging wasps and give them a wide berth. Creatures who haplessly stumble upon a wasp colony or have the audacity to disturb a nest will find themselves quickly swarmed. A social wasp in distress emits a pheromone that sends nearby colony members into a defensive, stinging frenzy. Unlike bees, wasps can sting repeatedly. Only females have stingers, which are actually modified egg-laying organs.

Impact on the Ecosystem

Despite the fear they sometimes evoke, wasps are extremely beneficial to humans. Nearly every pest insect on Earth is preyed upon by a wasp species, either for food or as a host for its parasitic larvae. Wasps are so adept at controlling pest populations that the agriculture industry now regularly deploys them to protect crops.

Is 2018 a bumper year for wasps?

It’s been a long, hot summer and now that August is drawing to a close, wasps are out in full force.

Pest controllers are reporting a surge in calls about wasp nests – but are we really seeing a bumper summer for the insects?

In reality, we just don’t know. A lack of data on UK population numbers means that experts can’t be sure of just how many wasps are out there, and in which years they have been thriving.

We do know that wasp numbers change depending on weather conditions in the spring and summer. A warm and dry spring will allow queens to make their nests and rear their workers more successfully. Mild weather also makes for more abundant food sources.

There are more than 7,000 species of wasp living in the UK, but only nine are the social wasps that upset barbecues and picnics. The common wasp (Vespula vulgaris) and the German wasp (Vespula germanica) are the two you’re most likely to see, as they live all over the UK in a huge range of habitats.

Gavin Broad, a wasp curator at the Museum, says, ‘If the spring weather is good, when the queens are establishing nests and it is followed by a warm summer, you’ll probably get lots of wasps.’

Conditions this year have been favourable for wasp species, but experts say their numbers are likely to be within a normal range.

Chris Raper, Manager of the UK Species Inventory at the Museum, says, ‘The warm, dry summer might have encouraged some social species to do quite well, but this is all part of the usual yearly cycle.

‘Wasp nests reach maturity at about this time in the year, and the colonies eventually break up and bother gardeners and people with barbecues, so it is normal for everyone to suddenly notice them.’

The number of overwintering females may also affect the following year’s population. Too many queens competing for nest sites could lead to the survivors being in poorer condition and producing fewer offspring.

A common wasp specimen from the Museum collections. It is a eusocial species: colonies work together to build communal nests.

Counting UK wasps

There are no systematic counts or surveys tracking wasp populations, so experts don’t really know what an average wasp year looks like.

Some studies have suggested that wasp populations go in cycles – perhaps cycling over two years with alternative summers producing more of the insects. But some researchers have disputed this and more work needs to be done to be sure of what factors impact abundance, diversity and distribution.

Initiatives including The Big Wasp Survey are hoping to add to the data on UK wasps. Now in its second year, the survey is a partnership between the University of Gloucestershire, University College London and the Royal Entomological Society. It aims to both find out more about which species live where in the UK and discover which factors are affecting wasp populations.

What’s really the point of wasps?

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A new citizen science survey aims to shed light on that fixture of summertime in the outdoors: the wasp. Though much maligned, these fascinating creatures perform a vital ecological role, say scientists.

The only thing more certain to spoil an August Bank Holiday weekend BBQ than a sudden cloudburst? The arrival of wasps.

At this time of the year, it can sometimes seem as if every outdoor activity is plagued by these yellow-and-black striped insects buzzing around your head and landing on your food and drink.

Wasps aren’t just annoying – if you are unlucky, you might end up with a sharp reminder that wasps, like their close relatives the honeybee, pack a powerful sting. That combination of nuisance and pain makes wasps many people’s least favourite animals.

Perhaps more than any other insect, wasps are badly in need of a change in public opinion. As well as having fascinating lives, they are extremely important in the environment and face problems similar to those of their cherished, but often no less annoying, cousins the bees.

As the summer approaches its end, many will wish for it, but a world without wasps would most certainly not be a better place.

Social types

The insects we most commonly identify as “wasps” are the social wasps. Social wasps (called yellow-jackets in some places) live in colonies consisting of hundreds or thousands of more-or-less sterile female workers and their much larger mother, the egg-laying queen.

The handful of colony-living, nest-building species is just a tiny fraction of overall wasp diversity, estimated at more than 9,000 species in the UK alone. Most wasps are solitary, some are tiny (a few species practically microscopic), none ever bother us and virtually all are overlooked.

Social wasp nests are constructed from wood fibres collected and then mixed with water by industrious wasp workers to make a kind of papier maché capable of producing very strong and long-lasting structures. The nests start to develop in late spring, when queen wasps emerge from hibernation.

Building a small nest of just a few paper cells, the queen must rear the first set of workers alone before the first batch of worker wasps can start to take over the work required by the developing colony.

Wasp workers toil ceaselessly to raise their sister workers from eggs the queen lays, cooperating and communicating in intricate ways to build and defend the nest, collect food and look after the queen. When the colony is large enough the workers start to give some young larvae more food at a much greater rate than usual, triggering genetic switches that cause the development of a potential queen rather than a worker.

Male wasps, who take no part in the social life of the colony, develop from unfertilised eggs in a form of sex determination called haplodiploidy, also found in bees and ants. These male-destined eggs are laid by the queen and rarely by workers, some of whom retain the ability to lay eggs but lack the ability to mate.

Potential queens (called gynes before they head a colony) and males, sisters and brothers of the workers, are the reproductive future of the colony. Mating with males from other colonies, the gynes overwinter before starting a colony of their own the following spring.

They may not make honey, but nonetheless wasps have just as fascinating social lives as the celebrated honeybee.

Vital role

Wasps are also just important in the environment. Social wasps are predators and as such they play a vital ecological role, controlling the numbers of potential pests like greenfly and many caterpillars.

Indeed, it has been estimated that the social wasps of the UK might account for 14 million kilograms of insect prey across the summer. A world without wasps would be a world with a very much larger number of insect pests on our crops and gardens.

As well as being voracious and ecologically important predators, wasps are increasingly recognised as valuable pollinators, transferring pollen as they visit flowers to drink nectar. It is actually their thirst for sweet liquids that helps to explain why they become so bothersome at this time of year.

By late August, wasp nests have very large numbers of workers but they have stopped raising any larvae. All the time nests have larvae, the workers must collect protein, which accounts for all those invertebrates they hunt in our gardens. The larvae are able to convert their protein-rich diet into carbohydrates that they secrete as a sugary droplet to feed the adults.

With no larvae, all those adult wasps must find other sources of sugar – hence why they are so attracted to our sugar-rich foods and drinks. When you combine that hunger for sugar with nice weather and our love of eating and drinking outside, the result is inevitable.

A new study is taking advantage of wasps’ love of our drinks to find out more about these fascinating and undervalued insects. Calling on members of the public to help, the Big Wasp Survey is asking people to build a simple wasp trap from a drinks bottle and a small volume of beer.

Scientists from University College London (UCL) and the University of Gloucestershire want to collect and study the contents of these beer traps. The project, in conjunction with BBC’s Countryfile and sponsored by the Royal Entomological Society, hopes to find out which species of wasps live where in the UK, and provide some baseline data for an annual Big Wasp Survey over the coming years.

As Dr Seirian Sumner (UCL) says: “The black and yellow wasps that bother us at picnics are social wasps and we would like to find out much more about where they live and how common they are; to do that we need the public’s help”.

Insects are generally having a hard time; changing environments, changing climate, habitat loss and the use of insecticides are all taking their toll on these vital creatures.

Yet, whilst many take up the cause of the honeybee or extol the beauty of butterflies some of the most fascinating and important insects remain the most reviled. It’s time we stopped asking “what is the point of wasps” and started to appreciate them for the ecological marvels that they are.

How many wasps are in the world

All About Wasps

Wasps are an all-too familiar annoyance of the Great British Summer but they are so much more important than you might think! We at the Big Wasp Survey don’t like being bothered at BBQs or pestered at picnics any more than you do, but we do know that a world without wasps would be a far worse place.


Wasps are voracious predators and they control plant pests like caterpillars and aphids. Without wasps many of the most common insect pests of crops and gardens would have very few natural predators and would eat all our food before it even got to our plates! It will also surprise you to hear that wasps also pollinate: in fact, there is evidence that they do as good a job as bees! A world without wasps would be a much worse place – so be careful what you wish for the next time one is flying around you.


The large football-shaped paper nest you might discover in your loft in the summer has developed from a single queen wasp; she hatched and developed the previous September, mated, and spent the winter hibernating, probably in your attic! In the spring, she looks for a place to start a nest and uses wood pulp gathered from trees, or your garden fence, to build her nest. Grubs develop from the eggs she lays and these develop (by metamorphosis like you find in butterflies) into female worker wasps that take care of the day-to-day running of the colony. The queen lays more and more eggs that will develop into yet more workers as the nest grows with up to 8000 workers by the end of the season.

It is the workers that we find so bothersome in the summer and they are all female. Wasps are predators, taking caterpillars and other invertebrates, as well as barbequed meats, jam sandwiches and fizzy drinks. As the summer progresses, the colony produces new potential queens by feeding some larvae richer food at a faster rate. They also produce male wasps that mate with potential queens from other colonies. As the colony winds down in late summer and early autumn, the remaining workers die off and the colony reaches the end of its life. It is only the young queens-in-waiting that make it through the following winter to start the cycle again.

Wasps belong to a highly diverse group of insects called the Hymenoptera with more than 150,000 species across the globe. The Hymenoptera also includes the ants and bees. Some of the Hymenoptera, like the ants, honeybees and bumblebees, are well known for living together in colonies and when we say “wasp” we are usually thinking of the black-and-yellow striped species that live together in large nests. Actually, these social species are very much a minority in the world of wasps. The vast majority of wasp species lead solitary lives. There are around 9000 species of these solitary wasps in the UK – and we never really notice them.


The short answer is we don’t really know! But here are some likely explanations.

Worker wasps get hungry at the end of the summer. As predators, you might imagine wasps with huge gnashing mandibles, munching greedily on poor unsuspecting aphids and caterpillars. Wrong! The adult wasps don’t eat any of this protein-rich food – they feed it all to the developing brood. All an adult wasp need to survive is some yummy sugar. When the colony is young there are lots of brood in the nest: in return for a juicy bit of aphid, a larva will reward an adult worker wasp with some nutritious, sugary secretions. At the end of the summer there are less brood to feed because most are undergoing metamorphosis and so don’t need feeding; but there are still thousands of workers around. What better way to calm a rumbling wasp gut than to forage on your jam sandwich or beer!

Common wasp

Fast facts

  • Latin name: Vespula vulgaris
  • Notable feature: Striking black and yellow warning stripes
  • Rarity in UK: Rare / Common
  • Where in the UK: Throughout the UK

Common wasp (Vespula vulgaris) © Keith Edkina

You might be surprised to see quite a few wasps around during late summer. But why do they like your jam sandwiches so much?

What do wasps do?

  • Wasps eat flies, aphids, caterpillars and other invertebrates, making them an important insect-controlling predator.
  • Wasps are amazing architects, building hexagonal paper nests from chewed up wood.
  • Wasps are important pollinators.
  • Wasp nests provide a home for some of our most beautiful, pollinating hoverflies.

How many species of wasp are there?

There are approximately 9,000 species of wasp in the UK. These include the parasitic wasps, some of which are so tiny, they can barely be seen without a micropscope. 250 of these are the larger wasps which have have a stinger. Only nine of these are social wasps which form large nests, the majority are solitary and cause no upset to humans.

The Common wasp (Vespula vulgaris) is found throughout the UK in almost all habitats, including woodland and urban areas. They are nicknamed jaspers in the Midlands, deriving possibly from the Latin for wasp, vespa, or from the similarity in looks to the striped mineral jasper.

As the commonest UK wasp they are easily identified by most people. Adult workers (always females) measure 12-17mm whereas the queen is around 20mm. Iconic black and yellow stripes give a clear warning to other animals that these insects are dangerous. With the abdomen split into six segments, one black/yellow stripe on each, the Common wasp is very similar to the German wasp (Vespula germanica). The key difference is that Common wasps lack the three black dots on the head and distinct black dots on the back as they merge with the back stripes.

Wasps are magnificent architects

In late spring, large wasps can be seen. These are queens who are looking for suitable nest sites. These can be deserted mammal holes, cracks in walls or holes in trees. The nests are made from chewed up wood and wasp saliva which creates a paper-like material.

Wasps are social animals

A queen will begin by building a cylindrical column known as a petiole which is covered by a chemical produced by the queen which repels ants. When she’s finished, she produces a single cell and surrounds it with a further six cells, giving the cells their characteristic hexagonal shape. She continues building cells in a layer until she has 20-30 then lays an egg in each. Once the eggs have hatched she divides her time between feeding the larvae and nest building.

At full size larvae spin a cover over their cell until they have developed into adult workers. These are the smaller wasps, seen later in the summer, who are gathering proteins to feed the larvae and sugars to feed themselves. It’s this need for sugar that attracts them to your jam sandwiches or fizzy drinks. With enough adults fully grown the queen can focus on reproduction and is then fed by the workers in the nest. Each nest may contain 5,000-10,000 individuals and is spherical in shape.

In late summer new queens and male drones emerge from the nest. Each colony contains only one queen and after mating in late autumn the new queens overwinters in holes or other sheltered locations. Colonies only last one year and once the new queens departs all the other wasps in the colony die.

Why are wasps after my picnic?

Towards the end of September the nests are at maximum capacity, with lots of adults and few larvae. This means that there will be lots of wasps visible but also affects what food they look for. While the adults feed on nectar the larvae are fed on insects. When feeding larvae, adults obtain a small, sugar rich droplet of liquid from the young. With fewer larvae the adults don’t need to look for as much protein but do need more sugars and carbohydrates. It is because of this need for carbohydrates that wasps might go for your crisps rather than your jam this month.

Why do wasps sting?

Wasps have a sting to allow them to capture and immobilise their prey (such as aphids, caterpillars, flies and spiders). They may also sting to defend their nest.

Queen Common wasp (Vespula vulgaris) and her nest © Paul Padam

How Many Types of Wasps are There?

Wasps are an unwelcome sight in your yard. Unlike honey bees, they don’t pollinate your trees and flowers like bees do and and they don’t make honey. They are more of an aggressive nuisance, ready to at attack if you get too close. Your mere presence is a threat to them and they will do whatever is necessary to defend their hive. You might see flying insects around your yard that resemble wasps and question if they are as dangerous. All wasps sting, but not all wasps are as aggressive. Some are rather even tempered, but all wasps are pests and that is the similarity. There are several types of wasps and over 100,000 different species of wasps on earth today. Here are a few types of wasps you may find in your garden:

1-Predatory wasps

Predatory wasps may be social or solitary. This means, they may have a large hive with many other wasps working together, or if they are solitary, one wasp builds a hive alone and lives alone. Social wasps are aggressive and work together to defend the hive while solitary wasps are non-aggressive and do not sting in defense, only to catch their prey. There are more than 17,000 species of predatory wasps that hunt other insects for food or eat pollen and nectar. These include hornets and yellowjackets, which are easily recognized.

2-True parasitic wasps

This type of wasp is a large group with more than 76,000 species. They are known for their long oppositor, which they use to insert their eggs into a host. Usually these hosts are insects like grubs and caterpillars. They don’t sting and are viewed as beneficial pest controllers, thus farmers especially appreciate them.

3-Stinging parasitic wasps

This category has a smaller number, only 13,600 species. This wasps might sound rather morbid, but like the true parasitic wasp, it lays its eggs in the host, but then it will take that host to its nest. The wasps will wait for the eggs to hatch and once they do, all the larvae will feed on the carcass they hatched from. It sounds pretty gruesome doesn’t it? Not for a stinging parasitic wasp, it’s a way of life.

4-Symphyta wasps

These wasps are grouped together in this suborder and they include sawflies, horntails and wood wasps. They make up about 8,200 species and are plant feeders as larvae. Sawflies get their name from the “sawlike” ovipositor that cuts into plant tissues to deposit their eggs. Likewise, a horntails and wood wasps will also bore holes in trees to lay its eggs.

Professional wasp control for all types of wasps

Green Pest Services is experienced and educated in all types of wasps. Removing a wasp infestation from your yard is vital to your sanity and safety. Wasps are rather nuisance-like insects and can also be dangerous if they feel threatened. Keeping your family safe is our number one concern. Call us today if you need wasp control in Glenview or the surrounding areas, we are happy to help.

Wasp Population 2018; Why Are There So Many Wasps Around My Mount Laurel, NJ House?

It seems like in recent years, we are dealing with more wasps than ever before. This aggressive stinging insect can be down-right brutal if they have set their sights on you. One of the reasons we have found ourselves dealing with more wasps than normal is the weather. If we don’t have a harsh enough winter, many wasps can survive through the cold season and we find ourselves dealing with even more of these insects than we normally would. Ross Environmental Solutions is here to talk about some natural ways you can try to battle wasps in an effort to keep them off your property this summer.

Plants that Repel Wasps in Your Garden

While wasps are protein hunters, they will also pause to smell the flowers. If you are looking for ways to get rid of them, try cutting back some of the flowers in your landscaping and replace them with more greenery that will not attract wasp activity. Some plants like eucalyptus, wormwood, spearmint and thyme citronella will work to naturally deter wasps so plant them in gardens that are near areas you want to spend time this spring and summer.

Sugar & Water Wasp Traps

Wasps are attracted to sugary foods and drinks. If you have ever left a sugary drink out at a BBQ before, you may remember a wasp having found it and rendering it useless. This is why this next trick works so well. To make your own, you can cut off the top of a 2-liter soda bottle and invert the top of it. Fill the bottle with some sugary water and the wasps won’t be able to resist it. Once they make their way inside the bottle, they aren’t smart enough to figure out how to get back out and will be trapped until they die.

How to Use Peppermint Oil to Get Rid of Nest Building Wasps

You will find that wasps don’t actually like any type of mint. Planting any type of mint in your yard is a good way to keep them away, but if you notice there is one place that they particularly like to build their nests, you can use a peppermint oil soaked cotton swab to treat the area and keep wasps from building there. Good places to pay particular attention to include porch roofs, under eaves and any other small openings or ledges that may entice wasps to build their nests.

Wasp Nest Removal

There are a few ways to remove wasp nests from your property that you may read about on the internet etc but Ross Environmental Solutions doesn’t recommend them as there is a serious risk of agitating the wasps and getting stung repeatedly.
Soap & Water- Spraying a mixture of soap and water at aerial nests works to kill wasps. It clogs their airways and works almost immediately but not before they have time to sting you.
Drowning Nests- You can drown nests using a hose. But again, you should know that with this method, there is a high risk of being stung and should be avoided particularly if you are allergic.
Smoke- Filling nests with smoke is another way to get rid of a wasp nest. You can do this by placing a grill under the area where the nest is hanging but it is likely to aggravate the wasps. Removing wasp nests is a dangerous job and should be left to the pest professionals at Ross Environmental Solutions. Call us today for all your pest control needs!

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