Wasps in a box: Dolichovespula sylvestris using a bird nest box
I was asked to advise on the action to take regarding a wasp nest in a bird box on a house wall in Bishampton (01, 02 & 03). I was curious as I couldn't recall seeing wasp nests in bird boxes other than Hornets Vespa crabro. When I first saw the nest on 20th June 2014 the wasps were already very active and were extending their remarkable 'paper' structure over the outside of the bird box. I was able to take a few reference pictures and could see that they were in fact Tree Wasps Dolichovespula sylvestris. I had not seen the nest of this species before and was unable to find references in 'the books' so I did an internet search on “tree wasp nest” to see if this was usual behaviour for them. Unfortunately the internet is more interested in exterminating our black and yellow hymenopteran neighbours than it is on sharing real information. Site after site reported that tree wasps are aggressive and gave details of how to deal with a nest. Sadly it seems that any wasp that nests in trees or bushes is classed as a tree wasp and seen as something to be feared and destroyed. In my experience D. sylvestris is by far the least aggressive of the social wasps and I was happily able to persuade the home owner to let the wasps live. A little later in the summer I was given an update that the wasps were busy eating fence posts and patio furniture and by 17th July the nest was finished and the colony had dispersed.
I have since been able to find reference to various wasp nests in Bees and Wasps by Jiri Zahradnik in which he states that Tree Wasp nests are “...built most often under eaves, in bird boxes, in tree tops or partly underground”. Interestingly in the description of the wasp he notes “It does not bother man and does not enter his homes.” Thank goodness for books.
Zahradnik, J. 1998. Bees and Wasps (English edition), Blitz Editions, Leicester.
01. Tree Wasp Dolichovespula sylvestris nest in bird box. Gary Farmer
02. Tree Wasp Dolichovespula sylvestris nest in bird box
03. Tree Wasp Dolichovespula sylvestris nest in bird box. Gary Farmer.