Unlike their more socially inept cousins, the solitary wasps, social wasps live in colonies and share the feeding and care of the young. The most common of these critters are the yellow jackets, hornets and umbrella or paper wasps. These insects build their papery nests in abandoned rodent burrows or hanging from trees or the side of structures. The nests are made of plant fibers and the saliva of the wasp.

Depending on the species, each nest may contain as few as 200 or as many as 15,000 individuals. Unlike honeybee hives, these nests are abandoned in the fall and are not reused the following spring. Instead, the goal of the whole process is to produce a few queens who will survive the winter and go out to start a new nest the following year.

During the summer season, many wasps will concentrate on protein sources early in the year and then move toward sweet things later. This is why they are attracted to your hamburger in the early summer and to rotting fruit later in the fall.

Social wasps tend to be more aggressive than the solitary types when it comes to defending their nests. Another way that they differ from honeybees is that wasps can sting multiple times and not die.

If the nests of these critters are encroaching on human spaces, they may need to be treated. You can do it yourself with products labeled for this use or hire someone since a few such as bald faced hornets can get quite upset if their homes are threatened.

Sometimes, traps can be set up to divert wasps from picnics or other outdoor activities involving food.

Note: We have provided some general information and observations on this topic aimed at the home gardener. Before you take any serious action in your landscape, check with your state's land grant university's Cooperative Extension Service for the most current, appropriate, localized recommendations.

Types of Insects

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