Guide Wasps, Bees and Hornets

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1. Wasps and hornets


Wasps have the characteristic black and yellow bands and have a narrow waist in the middle of the body. They have two pairs of wings which lock together.

The queen wasp lays thousands of eggs in hexagonal cells throughout the spring and summer and these nests are usually made from wood pulp which is moulded into the outer shell of the nest and contains many internal chambers.

The first brood of adult workers which are sterile females take over the task of enlarging the nest and provide food for the subsequent eggs laid by the queen. During the later part of the summer, males and young queens emerge, mating occurs and the fertilised queens fly away to select suitable sites to hibernate over winter.

With the onset of cooler weather, the workers and remaining males become sluggish and their feeding on over-ripe fruit can produce tipsy behaviour leading to aggression towards anyone who interferes with them.

Winter weather finally kills off the workers and the males. The fertilised queens hibernate to start new colonies in the following spring. Old nests are not re-used although in favourable sites a new nest may be close to an old one.


Wasps do have a useful role scavenging for the larvae of other insects, controlling garden pests and clearing carcasses early in the season. However, they may carry disease picked up during their visits to dustbins, bottle banks and carcasses and can contaminate food if allowed to settle on it. They enter kitchens in search of sweet food, and while not particularly hostile, they will sting if aggravated. A wasp sting is caused by the injection of poison into the victim, causing redness and swelling. In some cases more serious effects occur, and you should seek medical advice if this happens.

How do I get rid of them?

You can dispose of individual wasps using domestic insecticides, although this will not control or eliminate the actual colony. If a nest is located on your property and it is not posing any particular risk, you may want to consider whether treatment is required; in many instances the real or potential risk of stings and the annoyance caused by wasps will result in the actual destruction of the nest. If the nest is located in an area regularly used by members of the household or individuals are being stung, then the whole nest and colony should be destroyed and we recommend professional help is sought.

Please note that we receive significant calls about wasps during the summer which sometimes turn out to be bees. As bees are highly beneficial to the environment, we do not provide a treatment for them. It is often difficult to distinguish between bees and wasps so we STRONGLY ADVISE you read our information on bees before you book a wasp treatment.  If found on visiting to be bees, a call out charge of £25 will be deducted from any refund for an aborted treatment.

We can provide a pest control service to treat a wasp or hornet nest at a domestic two storey property. For further information please see our pest control service costs. To arrange a pest control treatment please complete the online pest treatment form or contact our customer service centre on 01395 571517.

We also have a range of information about other pests, birds and wild animals.

If you would like us to investigate a pest infestation on other land, or you have other insects or pests in your own home, please fill in the online pest investigation form and our environmental health team will contact you to provide advice and information.

If a nest is located on your neighbours land and it is causing a nuisance, it is the landowner’s responsibility to arrange treatment and you should speak with your neighbour in the first instance and make them aware of the nest.

When this content has been updated

Last updated 1 February 2024