NORTHAMPTONSHIRE, England — As many as 10,000 wasps have built a giant nest in the loft of a house in rural England.
The house, in the sleepy country village of Pipewell in Northamptonshire, has been unoccupied for several years. A pest control company discovered the colossal sphere after it was sold.
As if the nest weren’t enough, the wasps also built an intricate tunnel leading directly from the nest, to the outside world, which is perfectly preserved.
It was discovered when the company, Pest Professionals of Peterborough, came to treat an established woodworm problem prior to new owners moving in.
Nests like these are built around a single queen and it is estimated that this mammoth structure numbered between 6,000 and 10,000 wasps.
“Normally we get called in at the first sign of wasps causing a problem to people,” said pest controller Gary Wilkinson, “but this community has been allowed to go about its business undisturbed for a whole summer season.”
“Although you wouldn’t want it in your own loft, you have to say it’s impressive and in its own way a very beautiful thing,” he added.
Although carcasses of hundreds of dead wasps found next to the nest indicate that the colony was created by the common wasp (Vespula Vulgaris), people in the UK have been asked to be on the lookout for the larger Asian giant hornet which has been heading north across Europe.
Characterized by more aggression and a darker thorax than the common wasp, the giant hornet’s sting has already caused a number of deaths in France.
Anyone who thinks they have seen an Asian Hornet is asked to report the sighting to the Bee Keepers Association.
“Sometimes wasps just build on surfaces around the nest like this,” said a spokesman for the British Natural History Museum. “The ‘tunnel’ won’t be used for rearing young. I doubt it will be used as an entrance/exit either but it might conceivably be an extension of the original entrance hole. The workers die as winter sets in and only the queen wasps survive the winter. In fact we all need to be thankful to spiders, which predate around 95 per cent of hibernating queen wasps over the colder months. Without spiders there would be a plague of wasps every year!”