These Wasps Throw Awesome Parties


[INTRO ♪] Wasps have a pretty nasty reputation. When it comes to protecting their nests, they can be quite aggressive—which isn’t really their fault. They’re just protecting their home and their families. But that’s a whole different thing. See, as mean as these animals might appear, they’re not always in anger mode. In the fall, some species chill out and get together for what could only be called “wasp parties!” And much like our parties, these soirees can provide some fascinating insights into their social lives. People often report seeing large gatherings of paper wasps as summer slides into winter. But these aren’t aggressive swarms. Instead, the wasps just sort of seem to be hanging out. This lesser-known part of the wasps’ life cycle is called pre-hibernation. See, wasp colonies pop up in the spring, each started by one or more females which are called foundresses. By the summer, the colony is full of workers bustling about to take care of the eggs and babies that the foundresses produce. Then, as summer ends, the colony collapses. The sterile workers die. The males mate with the remaining fertile females. And then, the males die, too. And these mated females—all potential queens called gynes—will spend the winter hibernating, waiting to start the whole yearly cycle over again when the flowers bloom. But in some places, temperatures stay warm enough that they still have some time before they have to settle in. So, they gather in groups, especially near
the tops of tall structures. No one’s really sure what it is about tallness that they’re attracted to, but they sure seem to like the roofs of silos or the tips of telephone poles. Sometimes it’s just a handful of wasps;
and sometimes, it’s hundreds. It’s thought that these numbers might help keep them safe from predators and from the coming cold. And for decades, many entomologists assumed these gatherings were pretty boring. But it turns out that much like human parties, there are some fascinating social dynamics going on. With no nests to defend, the wasps are pretty docile—not only toward intruders like us, but also towards each other. They’ll chill alongside individuals from multiple colonies, and sometimes multiple species. And even though they’re all potential queens, a new social hierarchy forms. The wasps have been observed biting, lunging, and mounting each other, though no one gets badly hurt or kicked out of the group. They’re just establishing who’s in charge. Some scientists have even characterized this behavior as playing. Much like puppies or kittens, these wasps may be play fighting, because in this low-stress environment, they can practice the skills they’ll need to establish who’s the boss in the spring. But that’s not to say that there are no stakes in these games. See, the females who lose these competitions act subordinate for the rest of the party, and some even fetch food for the group like workers in colonies usually do! And these social interactions seem to influence who wins in the long run. The lowest ranking wasps rarely survive the winter. And the more dominant a wasp is during pre-hibernation, the more likely she is to become the dominant foundress of a colony in the spring. Entomologists have noted that the highest-ranking wasps at the parties show the traits that identify dominant foundresses, such as larger ovaries and a bigger body size. So, these chill gatherings may actually serve as early testing grounds where the wasps practice the social hierarchy that will benefit them later. Far from being a boring time when the wasps are just waiting around, it may be that pre-hibernation is an essential step in preparing future foundresses for spring. So if you come across a swarm of laid-back wasps this fall, don’t be a buzzkill. Leave them alone so they can ring in the winter their way. Thanks for watching! If you want to learn more about wasps and why they’re actually really awesome, you should check out our video on what would happen if we killed them all. And don’t forget to subscribe! [OUTRO ♪]

About the author

Comments

  1. This explains why wasps gathered in the late summer on and above my friends 9th (top) floor apartment balcony. It is the tallest structure for about a kilometer in every direction. I thought it was for getting warm on sunny concrete after cool nights, but then they hung out all day making the porch inaccessible. They were not completely docile. I did not feel welcome at the "party".

  2. I disagree, I went to a wasp party once, and not only was the food overpriced and bland, the host family was completely stuck up and boring!

  3. Wasps have a bad rap. They are actually pretty peaceful when they are away from their nests. Most people who get stung by wasps away from there nests are freaking out and flailing their arms around or otherwise being aggressive towards the wasps. The best way not to get stung is to just chill out. A tip for getting rid of wasps nests: Use some kind of jet nozzle on your hose to blast the nest off from where it is attached, usually once is enough, sometimes they try to rebuild in the same spot but just blast again, they will eventually go away. Also, they seem to react much less aggressively to the water than being knocked down by a broom or pole, etc.

  4. Wasps, bees and ants all show us that males are essentially useless – they are just packages of sperm, nothing more, nothing less. The Patriarchy is seeking to brainwash our society in believing that MEN are important. But the nature tells us a different story. We should listen to mom nature!

  5. A group of worker wasps who had finished their jobs in britan, found fermented fruit, ate it, became drunk, went looking for more

  6. Bees, are mostly chill with each other, wasps, are chill with each other at parties, ants when they sees ants of a different colony, a colony of wasps, or a colony of bees , so you have chosen death

  7. Aint much of a party when they sting ya.
    They like hiding in the green traffic lights they seem to aviod the red, not supprising.
    Bring on the wasp kill spray, hate them

  8. If you come across a group of chill wasps, take advantage of their vulnerability and save yourself pain. Execute them all.

  9. "Want to learn more cool stuff about wasps!? Like what happens if we kill them all?!?!" 🐝 🔫 😵 ……..
    …… Geez, that got dark fast.
    Makes sense because we have the emo girl host 🤔

  10. No matter how awesome they may be I will follow the light of the god emperor when I see them, I shall cry HERETIC and let lose the dogs of war.

  11. No need to kill them all, just the ones around the yard. Hundreds of wasps flying around makes it difficult to mow the lawn (you will understand if you've ever been stung by them, which I have).

  12. So what you're saying is I may have a chance to kill hundreds of potential wasp queens in a small concentrated area?

  13. "if u see a bunch of chill wasps dont be a buzz kill"

    Me: take them out now before they have a chance to multiple. This is war!

  14. as an entomologist, ive found wasps really are not overly aggressive. ive let paper wasps crawl off their nest onto my finger before. just dont make sudden jerky movements, and youll be fine.

  15. as an entomologist, all insects become exponentially more docile in cold weather. even an inexperiended person can pick up wasps on a cold day.

  16. I have a deal with the three obviously different varieties of wasps in my yard; I don't use insecticides and they keep the Lepidoptera caterpillars off my Cannabis. We have a lot of wasps and everyone gets along fine… using a little common sense.

  17. Cool video. But how compelling must the evidence be to call this phenomenon a wasp party? How sure can you be it doesn't just have a more simple and "boring" reason we haven't discovered yet.

  18. "They're just protecting their home and their families." Tell that to yellowjackets. Those things used me as a human pincushion when I was a toddler. I was nowhere near a nest or anything, they were just a bunch of meanies.

  19. Thanks, this episode is fun! It's even more fun to imagine it's told via an alien species' perspective while observing college students here on Earth

  20. In New Zealand wasps are an introduced pest and they wreak havoc. If you see a party of wasps in NZ do not hesitate to kill their buzz.

  21. Pls remove the ring on your nose, not good on your appearance, it feels disturbing when i watch your face talking. Your face like carabao in the philippines who have rope in they’re nose.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *