Do Wasps Freeze and Die in Winter?

Wasps are a common nuisance in the warmer months. At the beginning of spring, just when all the flowers, bees, and beautiful butterflies come back to life, we’re also stuck with six months-worth of feisty wasp buzzing around. Wasp activity doesn’t slow down until around September or October, and it doesn’t completely cease until temperatures drop significantly.

But what exactly happens during this transition period from early autumn to winter? How low does the temperature have to drop for all the wasps to die? Can wasps survive frost? What happens to the queen wasps and larvae during winter? Find out the answers to these questions and more in this article!

At What Temperature Do Wasps Die?

Wasps being to die off in early autumn, when the temperature begins to drop. However, in the beginning, wasps won’t die directly due to the temperature changes. Truth be told, temperatures would have to reach the freezing point for wasps to die due to weather alone. However, seasonal changes do have a powerful impact on the wasp population.

As temperatures drop, other insects and flowers begin to die. Most food sources enjoyed by wasps will disappear. So, most workers in the colony begin to starve. Colder temperatures and shorter daylight hours also mean that the wasps become sluggish because they can no longer maintain optimal body temperature.

When the temperature reaches around 50°F, the worker wasps become unable to do almost anything. Their muscles become stiff, and they can no longer flap their wings to keep themselves warm. Eventually, despite their slowing metabolism, the starvation and the frost catch up to them. When temperatures drop below 32°F, it’s safe to assume that all the worker wasps are pretty much gone.

Do Queen Wasps Die in Winter?

The old queen of the colony dies in winter, together with the remaining worker wasps. However, in late spring to early autumn, fertile female wasps begin breeding. These female wasps will become the new queens of future wasp colonies. After breeding, the female wasps leave the nest looking for a place to overwinter.

So, while the old queens die, the young queens will enter a state of hibernation until early spring. Throughout winter, the female wasps stay hidden in a sheltered place, such as crevices in trees, or even buildings. When the temperature begins to climb back up, the new queen wasps emerge ready to start the new colony.

The new queen wasp begins building the nest and laying eggs. As the first eggs hatch and the larvae grow, the queen gets her first worker wasps to help with the nest and food. As the wasps continue building the nest, the queen lays more and more eggs. By late summer, the colony has reached its maximum number of members, and new fertile female wasps are ready to breed.

How Do Wasp Larvae Survive in Winter?

Wasp larvae can’t survive in the winter. All wasps except for the young queens die once the temperature reaches the freezing point. This also includes the larvae, which are particularly sensitive to wide temperature fluctuations.

As they’re currently growing, they require constant nutrition. So they couldn’t go into hibernation even if there was a need for them to do so. Wasp larvae require a very high protein diet. But most other insects begin to die off in late summer to early autumn. By winter, all other insects are practically gone, so there’s no more food for the growing larvae. But this scenario is very uncommon.

The queen stops laying eggs in late summer to early autumn. The last larvae take about 2 weeks to reach adulthood. The young queens also don’t begin laying eggs until early spring. So, wasp larvae don’t usually have to survive winter, because they’re born and they grow before the temperatures drop low enough to kill them.

Can Wasps Freeze and Come Back to Life?

No, wasps can’t survive frost. While some insects have evolved various adaptations to survive cold weather, wasps cannot stay alive in sub-zero temperatures. Wasps cannot regulate their body temperature, so they must rely on outside heat sources such as sunlight.

But the heat coming from the sun is not enough to keep them alive during winter. Wasps can live a little bit longer in lower temperatures because their metabolic rate drops together with their body heat. However, below a certain threshold, death is inevitable.

Once the wasp’s body fluids start freezing, the insect is pretty much dead and there’s no coming back. Even queen wasps, which can hibernate over the winter, can die if their body fluids freeze up. Many potential queen wasps die in late autumn to early winter if they cannot find a suitable hiding spot.

What Is the Lifespan of a Wasp?

The average lifespan of a queen wasp is about one year, while worker wasps live 12-22 days. Some species can live a lot longer, reaching a maximum lifespan of up to 8 weeks! There’s a big fluctuation in lifespan, depending on the species and the environmental conditions. Unexpectedly, wasps living in colder climates might live a little bit longer.

That’s because the lower temperatures lead to a slower metabolism. The less energy the wasps burn, the longer their lifespan. However, that doesn’t mean it’s optimal. Wasps need the ability to fly and move quickly when hunting and gathering food or tending to the nest. Colder temperature doesn’t just mean a slower metabolism, but also slower and more sluggish movement.

Wasps need to be active for around 15 hours a day just to find the food necessary to feed the colony. Even at night, wasps don’t lay dormant, but they keep looking after the larvae and the nest instead. So, while slightly colder temperatures (but not freezing cold) are potentially beneficial, the trade-offs are too big to be worth it.

Can Wasps Live Longer in Tropical Climate?

The lifespan of individual wasps isn’t that much longer in tropical climates. However, wasps as an insect species are around for much longer, if not year-round in tropical regions. In that sense, yes, wasps live longer in tropical climates.

Wasps thrive in warm weather because there’s an abundance of food to feed the colony. As a result, wasps tend to grow more quickly and they reach larger dimensions in such climates. Tropical climates see average monthly temperatures around 64.4 °F and up. Temperatures never drop below freezing point.

It’s easy to see why tropical regions are ideal for wasps. There’s no lethal frost awaiting them at the end of September. Tropical climates are also pretty humid with frequent precipitations year-round, so there’s less risk for the wasps dying due to overheating.

Conclusion

It’s not easy being a wasp. Seasonal temperature variations kill entire wasp colonies each winter. And starving and freezing alive doesn’t sound like the best way to go. Once the temperature reaches 50°F or lower, wasps are unable to do their daily duties because their bodies become stiff and sluggish.

But it’s not like there’s much left to do, because most other insects and even flowers are also gone by the end of autumn. So, no more hunting and no more sucking on flower nectar. As temperatures keep dropping, most of the workers in the colony die. Luckily, the young queens are able to hibernate over the winter, so the species doesn’t die out.

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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