Are Wasps Aggressive? 5 Interesting Facts

Wasps are feared predators known to attack other insects and even humans. They’re known to be very aggressive. They’re certainly well equipped to handle almost any enemy. They’re very fast fliers, they have large stingers and very potent, pain-inducing venom.

Some wasps can even bite using their jaws. Most social species also tend to attack in swarms. But there’s also some confusion going on about wasps.

While it is true that they are capable of acting aggressive, they’re not necessarily flying around looking for a fight. In this article, I’ll cover the main reasons why wasps tend to become aggressive. Spoiler alert, they’re not just hunting humans for sport!

So, let’s take a look at why and when wasps tend to become violent. Do they sting for no reason? Are some species more aggressive than others? Let’s find out!

Why Do Wasps Become Aggressive?

Wasps often attack humans seemingly for no reason whatsoever other than their naturally aggressive personality. But there’s a bit of confusion surrounding wasps. They can become aggressive, but they aren’t usually aggressive towards humans or large animals. At least not without a good reason. So, what causes wasps to become aggressive?

If they aren’t killing for food, there’s only one reason why a wasp could become aggressive. They sense a dangerous threat, particularly regarding their nest. And unlike other insects, wasps are extremely territorial. They don’t run away from danger when their colony is in danger.

Worker wasps are protective of their queen and the nest. When they sense a threat approaching, they won’t wait around before taking action. Without realizing it, people or animals might sometimes enter a wasp territory, even if the nest is very high up on a tree or hidden away from sight.

In such an instance, wasps will quickly swarm out of the nest to attack the target. But this is just defensive behavior, rather than hostile. It’s just unfortunate that sometimes wasps build their nests in areas where there’s a lot of human activity, such as in parks, or close to people’s houses.

Why Are Wasps More Aggressive in The Fall?

Many have noticed that wasps become particularly aggressive in the fall. That’s due to a combination of factors. First, around fall, the colony has reached its maximum size. There are more wasps in the nest than ever. Combine that with the fact that colder autumn weather brings a decline in the numbers of flowers and insects, and you get a disaster.

We’ve now got lots of wasps, and very little food to go around. Not only that but in autumn, the queen usually beings laying eggs again. The survival of the colony will depend on the development of the new larvae, some of which will also grow into queens. Remember, the motto of the wasp isn’t “survival of the fittest”, but “survival of the queen”.

The worker wasps have to do everything within their power to protect the nest and to find all the food necessary for the growing larvae. That’s why in autumn, wasps will go out of their way to find high protein and high sugar food sources.

Since most of the insects and flowers are gone, they’ll interact with humans more often. Fruit, juices, ice cream, and leftovers become a lot more attractive. And remember, a wasp isn’t easily intimidated by humans. Just trying to swat or scare away the wasp will only make it more aggressive in its quest to retrieve food for the nest.

Are Wasps Aggressive at Night?

There’s very little chance for wasps to get aggressive at night. Typically, as the sun goes down and temperature drops, worker wasps gather back to their nest where they stay inside until the next morning. Wasps, like other insects, are ectotherms. They can’t regulate their body temperature without an outside source of heat.

The lack of warmth and sunlight during nighttime makes them sluggish. As their body heat drops, their muscles stiffen up and they can no longer properly use their wings. So, even if you see a wasp out at night, chances are it’s going to be less swift and agile than during the day.

It’s unlikely for a wasp to attack you at night, and even less likely for them to swarm out of the hive. You could safely walk around in a wasp territory at night, provided that you don’t go too close or disturb their nest. After sundown, the wasps stay inside. They aren’t necessarily sleeping, but rather tending to the nest or looking after the larvae.

The same thing happens to the queen wasps in winter. As the temperatures drop, the fertile female wasps can’t charge their bodies with thermal energy, so they become less active. Their bodies enter a dormant state until early spring when the temperature begins to rise again.

Will Wasps Sting for No Reason?

While it does seem that way sometimes, wasps don’t usually sting without reason. If you notice that a wasp is becoming aggressive, this means that it feels provoked or threatened. You may have unwittingly done something to set it off. Just remember that wasps do not attack humans or large animals unless it’s done in self-defense.

We’ve already covered their territorial tendencies. Wasps tend to get aggressive when people or animals come close to their nests. In such instances, they’ll swarm together to try and drive the threat away. You may not even pass very closely by a nest, but the wasps would still consider you’re entering their territory.

When a wasp is alone and far away from its nest, it’s most likely foraging for food. In such cases, wasps usually wander close to heavily populated areas where they can find foods such as fruit, juice, meats, and so on. They know what they want, and they aren’t afraid to get it. This leads to altercations, and a wasp isn’t going down without a fight.

The worst thing you can do in this scenario is to try to brush off or swat the wasp trying to feed. They will consider you a physical threat, and they’ll try to sting you in self-defense. Simply staying still and ignoring the wasp is a safer way of escaping without a painful sting.

Which Are the Most Aggressive Wasps?

There are more than 30,000 identified wasp species in the world. Around 1,000 of these species are social wasps that live in colonies. It’s difficult to generalize, given the huge diversity of species. However, most wasps are rather docile around humans. Unless they feel threatened, they won’t go out of their way to hurt people.

But some species are unpredictable. There are in fact some wasps that are well known to be very aggressive, even when compared to other species in the same genus. Here are the most dangerous and aggressive wasps you should be aware of:

– Yellow Jackets

Native to North America, these wasps are known for their distinctive black and yellow patterns. They’re also infamous for being extremely aggressive, even if there’s no threat present. They’re quick and agile fliers, and they can deliver a very painful sting.

These wasps can fly side-to-side in a zigzag motion, which makes them very difficult to catch and kill. When they sting, they usually do so repeatedly to deliver as much of their venom as possible. Besides stinging, they can also bite. Their sharp mandibles are strong enough to pierce through human skin.

– Bald-Faced Hornets

This wasp species belongs to the genus “Dolichovespula”. While they’re called “hornets”, they’re actually a sub-species of Yellowjacket wasps. They’re found throughout the USA and Southern Canada. They look very similar to Yellowjacket wasps, but they’re easily distinguishable due to their white head and body marks.

Like Yellowjackets, the Bald-Faced Hornet is very aggressive and easily agitated. These wasps feel threatened by human presence and they especially dislike vibrations and loud noises. They also tend to pursue their chosen victims for prolonged attacks. They sting repeatedly and are very difficult to get rid of.

– Paper Wasps

There are hundreds of species of Paper Wasps around the world. They get their name due to their thin and light nests made out of different plant fibers. While Paper Wasps aren’t as dangerous as Hornets or Yellowjackets, they can still become extremely aggressive, especially when their nest is threatened. They can sting multiple times without losing their stinger.

They also tend to attack in groups. When fighting a threat, Paper Wasps can send a signal to call for other wasps, even if they’re further away from the nest. Besides their painful venomous sting, these wasps can also bite with their sharp mandibles.

As most wasp species, Paper Wasps are very territorial. Any innocent passerby that gets too close to their designated territory is in for an unpleasant surprise.

Conclusion

Wasps are known to be ferocious predators feeding on pest insects and even bees. However, unless they’re hunting for food, they aren’t usually aggressive. Most wasps are actually docile around humans. There are just a few exceptions such as Hornets, Yellow Jackets, and Paper Wasps.

The most important thing worth remembering is that wasps only become aggressive when they feel provoked. You’re more likely to see wasps in late summer to early autumn when their natural food sources begin to die off. During this time of the year, they tend to be aggressive due to food shortages.

Wasps   Updated: January 19, 2022
avatar Welcome to Insectic, a blog to learn about insects and bugs. I'm Richard, and I've created this website to share my experience, knowledge, and passion with others.

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