Do wasps come out in the rain? (Facts To Know!)

All gardeners and lovers of the outdoors can agree that rain is a vital element for the health of their environment. Even though a rainy day can put a damper on your day, you always have the option of hunkering down at home with a cup of hot chocolate and a warm blanket. Most animals have the same idea when the heavens open up, but many wonder whether that applies to one of nature's more alarming (for some) creations - wasps. So, do wasps come out in the rain? If so, how would they behave?

Wasps and related insects such as hornets, yellowjackets, and so on can come out in the rain, but only for the most part if they find it necessary for their survival. While rain will not kill them outright, it has potentially adverse effects, such as reduced body temperatures, flight difficulties, nest damage, and so on.

Should you have wasps as pets, near your home, or in areas you frequent, it's important to know how they behave when it's wet outside. This becomes more important where children and people with allergies are involved. 

Let's take a closer look at these winged creatures and learn about wasp behavior when it comes to those rainy days.

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Do Wasps Come Out in the Rain?

They can, but they prefer not to. Wasp activity during rain will rely on several factors, including the year's season, the species of wasp in question, the surrounding temperatures, the location of their nest, food availability, etc. On the whole, however, the flight activity of wasps is significantly lowered during rain. 

These are some of the factors that might make them feel the need to come out in the rain:

Resource Availability

Wasps prey on smaller insects such as flies, mosquitoes, and so on, and these will retreat to areas where they feel safe during times of rain. They also rely on the excretion of aphids, known as honeydew, which is one of their preferred meals. Rainwater tends to wash honeydew off the leaves where they usually find it, making this hard for them to see as well.

Should rains persist for extended periods, wasps might be compelled to venture out in search of these resources so that they do not starve while in the nest. Unlike what happens in the case of bees, wasps do not store food reserves in their nests, meaning that they need to have almost constant food and resources coming in. 

They not only seek these resources for their sustenance but will carry them back to feed the worker wasps, the larvae and pupae, as well as the wasp queen, who all remain in the nest at all times other than emergencies.

Nest Integrity

Wasps tend to naturally build their nests in areas or locations they consider safe from rain or flooding. This will usually be in the trunks or branches of trees, holes in the ground, overhanging natural or manufactured structures such as rock faces or the eaves under your home's roofing. Wasp Queens are responsible for selecting the nest's location, and they do this very carefully to ensure safety from the effects of rain.

The way the nests are constructed plays a further role in keeping the nest's inhabitants safe from the harmful effects of rain with a «roof» created from the first individual honeycomb chambers onwards to prevent moisture from coming in from above. As the nest grows in size, these roofing structures accumulate to form a protective mantle, and the only entrance and exit opening to the nest's inside is at the bottom.

Should water somehow make it to the nest's internal structures themselves, it could lead to the destruction of the nest. Wasp nests are made from a relatively thin, light, and rigid material, but they are not completely water-proof. This material (a mixture of wood fibers and wasp saliva) is not absorbent and will repel moisture under most rain conditions. 

Heavy rain or flooding might overwhelm the natural defenses of these structures. Light rain might be tolerated for a while by the designs, but once enough water flows into the nest, it will be destroyed or rendered uninhabitable for the insects.

Queen, Eggs, and Larvae Protection

Young nests (generally found during the spring) will be especially vulnerable to the harmful effects of water. Young nests are new structures established by Wasp Queens that have separated from the swarm (like bees do) and might not be fully built and mantled for maximum protection from the elements.

These nests contain wasp eggs or wasps in their early stages of development, whereby they are entirely reliant on adult wasps for their protection and mobility. In cases where rain threatens to flood a nest and potentially kill off the young inhabitants, wasps might decide to move their eggs and larvae away from the danger area to a safer location. In such circumstances, you might be able to observe wasps flying about in wet conditions.

Can Wasps Fly in the Rain?

They can fly to some extent, but not very well. When the rains are falling more heavily, they will seek shelter either in their nests or other available areas where they are protected until the inclement weather passes. Heavy rain might not cover their bodies, but the impact of droplets against their wings and water sticking to them will make their flight clumsier.

Raindrops hitting against their wings make it difficult for them to steer themselves through the air, so they will tumble rather than move in the direction they want. However, they will not be drenched entirely by water coming down onto them because the surface tension of the water in conjunction with the small surface area of the wasps themselves will make it nearly impossible for water to coat the surface of their bodies thoroughly.

We should also note that wasps are relatively small creatures. From their point of view, individual raindrops have a significant amount of space between them. Thus, while a human being will feel numerous drops hitting them should they be out in the rain, a wasp might be able to fly in the corridors created between these droplets for quite some time before encountering a direct hit. 

Can Wasps Drown?

Just like any other living creature, wasps rely on oxygen for their survival. However, these creatures do not use their lungs for breathing in the way that humans and larger animals do. Instead, they take in air through spiracles located along the sides of their abdomens, and even though they can close them for extended periods, they will pass away once the oxygen stored in their bodies is depleted. 

It's interesting to note that wasps held underwater, in a jar, for instance, most often die not from suffocation but from the sheer exhaustion of trying to paddle their way out of their predicament.

Where do Wasps go while it Rains?

Wasps are generally much safer in their nests than outside as they are protected from predators and the elements. At the same time, they will also be able to contribute to the wellbeing of the nest structure that ensures their continued survival. 

For these reasons, wasps will tend to fly back to hole up in their nest, but they may take shelter where they might find protection in case their nest is submerged or inaccessible for some reason. While in the nest during this time, they will engage in the tasks of keeping the nest climate optimal, taking care of eggs and larvae, protecting the queen, and resting.

During light showers, you will still be able to find wasps out and about, although not in the numbers you might expect during calmer weather. In general, wasps and most flying insects will prefer to stay out of the rain because of its effect on their ability to fly correctly. Different insects will be affected to varying extents by falling raindrops, but the small size of most types of wasp means that they can get away with flying about during light to medium showers.

Does Temperature Affect Wasp Behavior?

Another factor that influences the activity of wasps is the temperatures in their environment. Like most living beings, low temperatures cause their internal metabolic rates to slow down, making them less active. You can observe this effect in cold-blooded creatures such as snakes and other reptiles that are relatively more active in the daytime than in the cold of night.

In general, you will find that wasps are more aggressive when it is warm outside, as they are much more active in their foraging and flights. Although this effect in wasps might be more pronounced during the colder seasons (temperatures drop less dramatically during summer showers), it can still be observed that wasp activity shows a marked reduction when rainy weather causes temperature drops. 

Final Thoughts

While wasps can be said to avoid coming out or flying while it rains generally, there are circumstances where they will do so. Rain in itself is not fatal or particularly harmful to them, and they will come out in case their nest is threatened, resources are scarce, or if any other reason compels them. Once the rains subside, you will see them resume their regular activity.

SOURCES

- https://extension.unh.edu/resource/controlling-wasps-bees-and-hornets-around-your-home-fact-sheet-0

- https://www.rescue.com/bugs/wasps/

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