Wasps in My House! What's Happening Here?


Male Yellowjacket, Vespula
Photo credit: Whitney McCann
Things were a'stir on the second floor of AMC Pinkham Notch Visitor's Center as wasps began emerging from a small hole in one staff office wall.  The arrival of this insect indoors coincides with the nightly frosts in the notch lately and with the cyclical nature of this colony-building species.  The male attending drones of this season have an essential errand before their one-month life as adults is up: to find from another colony an available fertile female to inseminate.  She is the queen--the overwintering hibernator and reproducer of next year's entirely new colony.  (Because queens store the drone's sperm and do nothing with it until they lay eggs in spring, they can systematically control the reproduction of the colony on their own.)

Male Yellowjacket, Vespula
Photo credit: Whitney McCann


The male yellow jackets pictured here, identified under magnification by the absence of an ovipositer, are entering the great indoors now because the queen has chosen some casing, eave, or crawl space here in which to hunker down over winter.  She is after warmth, the drones after her, and the people out the door.  This chase will ensue again in March when queens who gained entry unnoticed in fall become active again in spring and want out.  There is good reason to fear the wasp, especially if you are allergic: when disturbed, female wasps can inflict their painful sting multiple times.  There is also good reason to be thankful for the wasp: it is one of the chief predators of many insects that fatally effect crop production.  So like it or fear it, seal up the holes in the wall so this insect can go about its business outside where it belongs.


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