There are over a hundred thousand identified species of wasps all over the world. There are dozens of species that live in Nebraska. The most familiar ones include yellow jackets, paper wasps, mud daubers, and cicada killers. They have a wide variation in appearance and habits.
There are two major lifestyles the different wasp species may have: solitary and social.
- Solitary – Solitary wasps live and hunt alone, coming together only to mate; this is the most common lifestyle, used by the majority of species. Mud daubers and cicada killers are solitary.
- Social – Social wasps live in colonies, building nests of plant fiber, often called paper. They work together to help the community survive. They have a caste system composed of workers, who build and maintain their home, and reproductives, who lay eggs and ensure the continuation of the colony.
Different species of wasps make different kinds of homes. These fall into three categories.
- Aerial Habitation – Some species build large hanging nests. These are often seen in trees or bushes, though sometimes they build them on human habitations, in sheds or under eaves.
- Cavity Dwellers – These wasps live in cracks. In the wild, they may live in the cracks of a boulder or log. Near humans, they may live under steps or in cracks between pieces of siding. Mud daubers build nests of mud or clay; these are sometimes seen on walls or under eaves.
- Ground Dwellers – These dig holes in the ground. They can be found in yards or under the edges of sidewalks when found near humans. Cicada killers are examples of ground dwellers, as are some species of yellow jacket.
There are social and solitary species that use each of these types of homes. Underground yellow jacket colonies can have thousands of members.
Different species of wasps have varied diets. Some are very specific; mud daubers primarily eat spiders. Some species of wasps are parasitic. Species like cicada killers or cricket killers lay their eggs on another creature. This helps control the populations of the other types of insect.
Some species of wasp drink nectar from flowers and are effective pollinators, making them useful for agriculture.
Many species of wasps in Omaha are parasitic. Species like cicada killers or cricket killers lay their eggs on another creature after paralyzing it. The larvae then eat the still-living host. Other species lay their egg in the nests of other wasps, where they eat the larvae of the host wasp or the food provided for them.
Some species are predatory, paralyzing and eating other insects themselves or feeding them to their young. This helps control the populations of the other types of insect. This is useful for agriculture, as the types of insect they use are often pests.
Some wasps vary their diet by the time of year. Yellowjackets, for example, in the spring and early summer want protein, and eat other insects, spiders, and meats. Later in the summer, they seek out sweet foods. They are often found exploring garbage or hovering around a can of soda.
Interaction with Humans
While wasps can be helpful to humans by providing pollination and controlling other insect populations, when they live near humans or infest a home, they can cause problems. Wasps, unlike honey bees, can and will sting repeatedly, even after they run out of venom. When wasps sting, it can cause pain, sometimes quite severe, swelling, and redness. Some species consume wood to make paper for nests, or burrow into wood; this can cause damage to homes.
Yellow jackets and hornets can be quite aggressive. If a human bothers a yellow jacket nest, the entire population will come out and attack. Some species even mark aggressors, and they will chase the annoying human. If one is buzzing around a park or picnic and the humans try to shoo it away or squash it, they often get stung.
Other species are less so. Mud daubers are not aggressive and will not defend their nest. They often will build their mud nests on the sides of buildings. Cicada killers are often found when they dig their homes under sidewalks or driveways. Velvet ant (which is really a kind of wasp) is another less aggressive kind of wasp. These kinds will not usually sting humans unless directly harassed.
Because of the painful sting, humans usually want wasp nests to be eliminated when they are found near or one their homes. It can be risky to bother wasp nests if one doesn’t know how to do so safely, resulting in many stings.
For help in dealing with a wasp infestation in your home, contact Miller Pest & Termite.