Wasps, and their more benevolent cousins, bees, can often be a nuisance in the summer months. Everyone has been on the wrong end of a sting at some stage, but for those who are allergic it’s no laughing matter. But as soon as night falls they seem to disappear. Where are they going, and why?
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Bees are cold blooded and need the higher temperature of the day time to use their flying muscles. Instead of flying around, most of them sit still, conserving energy in the nest. Some can get stranded outside when the sun goes down. Some will die while others seek shelter or crawl around until morning. The queen stays active at night during the spring months when she’s laying eggs.
After dark, wasps retire to their nest – often in the roof space of a house – as they can’t see without sunlight. However, they don’t sleep. Many of them carry out repairs to the nest and look after offspring. Others might as well be asleep as they sit motionless, conserving energy like bees.
Unlike bees and wasps, hornets do fly around at night. It is the wasp’s bigger brother at around four centimetres (one and a half inches) and will sometimes hunt for food at night, targeting other flying insects and fruit. The European hornet is attracted to lights at night.
There are exceptions to the rules, and there exist varieties of both bee and wasp that move around at night – mostly living in warmer countries in south-east Asia and deserts. The varieties generally have eyes that are different to the wasps and bees found in the UK. Here, you will probably never see a bee or wasp flying at night, which is why some pest control companies like to get rid of bee and wasp nests after dark.