This Wasp Didn't See Her Shadow Either

This morning when I stepped out of my shower I was greeted by a peeping tom. In this situation it's good that it was a wasp that was unannounced and uninvited in my bathroom rather than another human, making this perhaps one of the few times that it's nice to have a wasp in the house.

This is her, groggily climbing the wall next to my bathroom window.

What was she doing there, and how do I know that it was a she? The latter question is simple to answer: it's a she because mated paper wasp queens that were hatched during the previous summer and fall are the only ones who survive and hibernate through the winter. That also answers half of the former question, what was she doing in my bathroom: every year a few paper wasps will choose the roof vent of my bathroom fan to hibernate in, resulting in some of them becoming confused and entering my house through the fan by mistake when they begin to wake up as spring approaches (a couple of nice, warm winter days can sometimes confuse them and prompt an early emergence, too).

The next thing that typically happens is that I find these lost wasps hanging out around the very same window where I found this one today. The reason is that this window faces east, which puts it in just the right spot to catch the morning sun. Like many flying insects, European paper wasps use the sun to navigate and for warmth, so in an enclosed space like a house they will tend to gravitate toward sources of natural light. Most of the time this means they travel to eastern and southern-facing windows, the areas of a structure that get the most light first and longest. Once they get that far and are stopped by the glass, they tend to stay put. They can be easily swatted at this point, or if left alone they will die of dehydration eventually.

I decided to take this picture of my royal visitor this morning and post this tale because chances are that if I am seeing this happening around my house now, people around the Walla Walla valley and beyond probably are, too.

When you see insects begin to appear around your house as spring approaches, like this wasp, it usually means that they have been in some part of the house all winter long. They could be anywhere and have emerged from hundreds of possible entry points, but most of the time they'll simply head for spots where they perceive sun and end up dying there. When it comes to wasps like my visitor, there's not much you can do about them, but fortunately there's also not much to worry about: at this stage, these wasp queens will be very sluggish, and in general because they represent the future of their species they will not be aggressive. They have everything to lose at this point, so random attacks on humans (or anything else for that matter) are not at all on their "to-do" list.

Preventing the springtime appearance of European paper wasps in your home (also insects like boxelder bugs, brown marmorated stink bugs, and some spiders) is actually primarily a fall pest control endeavor. Treating the outside of a home during the fall when many insects seek out winter hibernation spots helps to keep their numbers down by placing an insecticide in their path such that they will be intercepted and killed when they come around to inspect your dwelling.

That's not so say that absolutely nothing can be done about them being in your home now, but just as food for thought the next time fall approaches. If you feel that you have an extraordinary number of paper wasps, boxelder bugs, etc. appearing in your home or office right now, I'd be happy to help as much as I can.

Z Pest Control LLC
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