Wasps get angrier during fall, but there’s a reason

Cooler weather takes a toll on available food sources as they prep the queen for winter

A yellowjacket wasp (WDIV)

ORLANDO, Fla. – Have you ever noticed the presence of wasps in the yard goes up around this time of year? You’re not imagining things. They’re out and they’re angrier than usual, but there’s a reason and the fall season has a lot to do with it.

As the fall months roll around, social wasps like paper wasps and yellowjackets are prepping their queen for the winter and looking for food that is not as plentiful as it is during spring and summer.


By this time of year, the colonies are reaching their maximum size and the lack of food available makes them “hangry” so to speak. Not to mention, there’s the future reproductive larvae that need to be fed, too.

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Normally, paper wasps feed their larvae liquefied insects such as caterpillars until they are grown and can feed on nectar. Yellowjackets will feed on insects, decaying animal flesh, fruit, sap and plant nectar.

As fall rolls around, the cooler weather depletes the wasps’ natural food source (except the decaying animal flesh).

The lack of food sources prompt a change in the wasps’ diet, often switching to carbs and sweets. Where does this new diet send the little flying ball of anger? That’s right! Into your backyard like little party crashers. They show up at celebrations and festivals where there’s plenty of artificial food sources to feed on. It’s like a buffet. They’ll even take a few sips of your drink if you’re not paying attention.

If you’ve ever tried to swat a wasp away in fall, you know they don’t give up easily. In fact, because they’re hungry and trying to prep the queen for winter, the time crunch is worse than trying to get to work during rush hour without having your morning cup of Joe only to realize you’re about to run out of gas in the middle of a traffic jam.

Wasps have an attitude, we all know it, but during fall they tend to be more aggressive if confronted. That’s how bad they need food. Not to mention the wasps are protecting the queen because she’s their future.

The queen wasp is likely the only one out of the colony that will make it through winter, the future colonies relying on her survival as others die off. That’s why they work so hard to prep the queen for the colder months.

Summer bug series: Managing wasps, yellowjackets at your home

Any potential threat that a social wasp senses to their queen can cause swarms of wasps to come to her rescue and sting the threat not once, but multiple times. Another part of prepping the queen involves finding a spot that’s nice and warm for her to live in.

Queen wasps won’t spend the winter in the nests that the colony used during spring and summer, it’s not warm enough. This search for warmth can often bring social wasps closer and even inside your home. Some common places to find wasps leading up to winter are in the walls, in sheds, attics, chimneys and other places where they are protected from wet weather along with the dropping temperatures.

Sometimes the queen will go unnoticed all winter, but then become more apparent as they emerge in the spring when she sets off to lay more eggs and build up a colony. The good news is during the spring and summer, wasps aren’t as aggressive and are more likely to be more easygoing if you happen to show up in the vicinity of a nest.

A scene from a yellowjacket nest removal from a residential basement in Marquette County. ((C) 2018)

Regardless, many don’t like taking the risk of being stung when trying to enjoy the patio or backyard during the warmer months. If there’s a large uptick in the number of wasps seen around your home, contact a local pest control service to talk about wasp control.

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About the Author:

Emmy Award Winning Meteorologist Samara Cokinos joined the News 6 team in September 2017. In her free time, she loves running and being outside.