Landcare Research - Manaaki Whenua

Landcare-Research -Manaaki Whenua

Hibernation and Overwintering nests

Once the queen has mated she goes to find a dark, dry place to hibernate for the winter. When the queens hibernate, they tuck their antennae neatly between their legs, and bite the substrate in order to hang on. Hibernation uses up very little of their stored fat, and most queens survive this resting period.

Most wasp nests die off in late autumn after the queens and drones have been produced. In New Zealand, about 10% of German wasp nests are able to survive the winter. When conditions improve again in spring, such nests already have a strong worker force and an existing nest structure. This means that they can grow very rapidly, and reach an enormous size by the end of their second autumn.

The largest German wasp nest ever found was about four metres high and contained about four million cells. In nests like these the original queen is replaced by several new queens to lay eggs in the second season.

Common wasp nests do occasionally survive the winter, but the overwintering nests found so far in New Zealand had not produced queens in their first autumn.