How To Identify A Queen Wasp? Everything You Need To Know

How To Identify A Queen Wasp

Anytime you are in your garden or out and about in the park and you hear a buzz, your first string is probably to scream and cry “bee!”,

But what you might actually be seeing is a close cousin of the bee: the wasp. 

As opposed to the rest of the wasp colony, the queen has a distinctive brighter shade, though she is not so easy to spot. 

Wasps come in a wide variety of colors and shades and it can certainly be difficult to ascertain if the buzzy friend (or foe, depending on the sting!) in front of you is a queen wasp or not. 

So today, we are going to look at the nuances between the two and try to identify a queen wasp. Let’s get on with it!

How Can You Identify A Queen Wasp?

While in bees and other species, identifying a queen is easy work as they tend to have longer bodies, queen wasps are much more difficult to spot. 

With most wasp species, the queen tends to be the same size as the other workers, with very minute, indeterminable differences. 

Most queen wasps come in an array of wonderful colors like brown, red, yellow, and even metallic blue.

The main way to point out the queen is by its lower abdomen, which will be pointed as opposed to a normal wasp’s. 

The queen also has a narrow waist, and since they are the only ones who hibernate in winter, a solitary wasp running in the autumn or early spring probably means that it’s the queen.

In some species, like paper wasps, the queen is nearly identical to the workers and cannot be distinguished by a layman’s naked eye.

Normal Wasp vs Queen Wasp

Generally, the queen wasp is larger than her male counterparts, as she is the one carrying eggs. 

This difference is minute and just a matter of numbers, though, with the worker wasps measuring 1.2 – 1.7 centimeters, and the queen measuring about 2 – 2.5 centimeters. This size difference is most noticeable in the yellowjackets family of wasps. 

Along with her narrow waist and pointed lower abdomen, she also has a distinctive triangular head.

How Does A Wasp Become A Queen?

It is generally believed that for wasps, the road to royalty begins at birth. 

Studies show that in many wasp species, the queen bee tended to be slightly longer – 0.64 centimeters longer, to be exact – than their siblings, the worker wasps. 

They are also set apart and raised in a different part of the nest. 

But who decides which of the larvae gets to grow up and claim the throne, and which one toils away at work? 

This is where your minds are about to blow because the answer is plain and simple – protein! 

Lead researcher James Hunt found that the larvae that grow to be queens have larger quantities of a certain protein that enables them to withstand the winter and reproduce in the next coming season. 

The larvae that grow to be workers, on the other hand, had fewer of these proteins.

Is The Queen The Only Female Wasp?

No! Apart from the queen, who is mainly responsible for laying eggs and continuing the lineage, there are male as well as female workers. 

In fact, the vast majority of wasps are female! Out of a colony of say 5000 wasps, only a few hundred will be male. 

They have shorter lifespans and cannot hunt or sting – as all of that is undertaken by the female wasps.

How Many Queens Are In A Wasp Nest?

While in our kingdoms and states, we like our one ruler – the role of a nest or a colony is to create many queens who can then go off and rule their own colonies. 

The queens are produced in a separate section towards the bottom of the nest, in especially enlarged cells in the comb. 

An average wasp nest is responsible for the production of about 1,000 – 2,000 queens a season. 

But in a social system though, there is only one queen at a given time, as the other newly crowned queens will store up fat during the winter and forage for a suitable nest when the season arrives.

Do Queens Leave The Nest?

During the summer months, the queen will most likely never leave the nest. In the springtime, the queen is busy building her nest and laying her first set of eggs, after she has emerged from hibernation. 

She is usually the only wasp to hibernate during the winter and will search for a place to hibernate after she goes searching for a mate during the late autumn season.

What Happens If A Queen Wasp Dies?

Studies show that in the case of a queen dying, either the colony works at rearing another one from the larvae, or otherwise, one of the female workers steps up and takes up the position. 

Experiments made on removing the queen showed that one of the female workers started showing dominant and highly aggressive behavior, and then laid eggs in about a week. 

They further studied by removing four subsequent queens and were amazed to see that the cycle continued. 

It seemed as though female workers were lined up to take the position of their preceding queen.

Where Do Queen Wasps Hibernate?

Queen wasps undergo hibernation during the winter months and usually go foraging for a safe space to cozy up in during the late fall season. 

Their nests will usually be located in the cavities of trees or in the ground. They also can be seen cozying up in walls and buildings and even on houses’ roofs.

Is There A King Wasp?

No, they do not have kings. In wasp communities, they have a set caste system consisting of one or several queens, plus a few male and female workers. 

The queen is responsible for beginning the colony by laying her first set of eggs in the spring season. No king is helping her out – she is a one-woman army!

Do Red Wasps Have A Queen?

Yes! Red wasps are also social insects and have a social community that consists of the same levels of castes as other wasps: the queen, male workers, and female workers.

In Conclusion

So that was a deep dive into a wasp’s colony, and how you can try and identify the queen from a wasp’s nest. 

It is one of the most fascinating things to study, and we hope you had fun learning with us. 

Though queen wasps are hard to identify, try your luck at it but make sure you do not get too close – or else you might get stung!

Thank you for reading!

Related Articles You May Like

Scroll to Top