The United States hosts many species of wasps and related insects, and they are abundant during the summer. During the winter, however, the different species find different ways to stay alive, although they don't migrate.
Most yellow jackets, paper wasps and related wasps only live for one season. A fertilized female is able to overwinter to begin a new colony in late winter or early spring, according to the University of California's Integrated Pest Management Program. Some larger wasps, such as bald-faced hornets, overwinter in their larval stage while the rest of the colony dies.
New adult queens who survive the winter may choose overwintering spots such as among litter or debris to protect themselves from the cold, or paper wasp queens may huddle inside a home for warmth in search for a winter spot, according to the University of Maryland.
Most species' queens do not reuse the previous year's nest to start the new colony. You can more easily remove nests during fall and winter without fear of stinging females. Warmer climates with mild winters, such as those in the south or south of San Francisco in Coastal California, may allow colonies to stay alive during the winter.
- University of California Integrated Pest Management Program: Yellowjackets and Other Social Wasps
- University of Kentucky College of Agriculture: Yard Wasps
- University of Maryland Thorne Lab: Common Stinging Insects: Wasps and Bees
- National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Insects and Spiders; 1980