Ask a Question forum→Do wasps (and potentially other insects) get accustomed to you?

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CT
Region: Northeast US
samman
Aug 28, 2020 4:51 PM CST
I just wanted to update people on the wasp post I made awhile back (since I had a number of people participate). Yes, they were thin-waisted waps stings. And ask a bit of a follow up. A few weeks ago, I couldn't even get close/do gardening before these guys swarmed all over the place and panicked. Now I can literally move them aside with my hand and take up close photos without issues. I'm not entirely sure whether this is because they are accustomed to me? Or whether that aggression was during their mating season, and now they're all docile.


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Name: Big Bill
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BigBill
Aug 28, 2020 5:06 PM CST
I don't think that they can experience a feeling like "getting accustomed to you." I don't think that they are capable of feeling that.
They might pick up on chemical stimuli. What bothered them before is not present now. Either from you, them or the environment.
Since I believe that these guys are solitary wasps, they do not perceive you as a threat or rival in that regard. I have no idea of how or where they acquire a mate, but I feel that could be the case. But these are likely to be so many different individuals and to have them all tolerate you at the same time is odd. Their mating season is likely to be several weeks or a couple of months.
It is cool to think about. Thumbs up
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Name: Lynda Horn
Arkansas (Zone 7b)
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gardenfish
Aug 28, 2020 5:12 PM CST
I think that sometimes they are agitated by US being agitated. Haven't you seen a wasp or bee sting someone who was screaming and swatting at them? When the Hummers leave in the fall, I leave my feeder up and remove the guards on it. The honeybees in my area swarm the feeder loading up on the sugar water for the winters honey.When they empty the feeder, I go out and moving slowly and making deliberate movements, remove the feeder from the hook and slowly carry it into the house to refill it, and I have never been stung doing this. I also don't wear bright clothing or wear perfume; that has been known to agitate bees and wasps. And wasps seem to me to be much more aggressive in the fall.
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Bryan, TX
WAMcCormick
Aug 28, 2020 8:44 PM CST
I have noticed many times that late in the season insects get docile. I don't know the reason for it. Grasshoppers were the first I noticed doing that. During the spring and through mid summer it would take a fast bird to catch one, but beginning in late summer I could step on them and sometimes pick them up. Later I noticed wasps were doing it too. If someone knows the reason, I would like to know it too.
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Name: Big Bill
Livonia, Michigan (Zone 6a)
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BigBill
Aug 28, 2020 8:53 PM CST
Could be they are nearing the end of their life span?
Maybe the heat takes its toll?
They many die off a lot this time of year but with tons of scavenger insects around too, bodies do not lay around too long.

Take wasps. They gather food. Make a place where the Queen can overwinter. She doesn't need all of those attendents or workers and they quickly die off. I would be surprised if an individual wasp lives more then a few weeks. I think new wasps or bees are being constantly produced all summer.
Interesting question.
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[Last edited by BigBill - Aug 28, 2020 8:54 PM (+)]
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Name: Zoë
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NMoasis
Aug 28, 2020 8:53 PM CST
gardenfish said:I think that sometimes they are agitated by US being agitated.

I agree

You might be calmer now, or not putting off "fear" signals. Or maybe it's that new bath soap you're using, Sammam. 😉

For me, gardening is really just an excuse for playing in the dirt. Admittedly, plants are a satisfying by-product.
CT
Region: Northeast US
samman
Aug 29, 2020 7:33 AM CST
That's why I thought it might be a seasonal issue (either mating or the approach of fall). They are far more docile now, and I haven't change anything
Name: TK
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Macrocentra
Aug 29, 2020 8:54 AM CST
I imagine there's some kind of signal they receive from us that agitates them at times. Whether a chemical signal of some sort, given pheromones play a huge role in communication for insects. Or our actions being perceived as a threat. I have a huge group of wasps and some hornets that have been hanging around my milkweeds lately. Some of my vegetables are around the milkweeds, and I can walk right through them all and check on the vegetables with no problems. They just move out of the way and land on a different milkweed plant. I just move slowly and avoid touching plants too close to where the insects are sitting so I hopefully don't appear as a threat. Smiling

I used to do some volunteer work a few years ago in an area close to an apiary and some native hives. There'd be literally hundreds of bees swarming a shrub, and I could go digging right in there in the middle of them with no problems. My theory was always that as long as I didn't appear to be targetting them, and because I was nowhere near the hives themselves, I wasn't perceived as dangerous. Smiling

Or for example, whenever I have a bee, wasp or hornet land on me. I don't brush them away or swat at them. I just either sit still or move slowly until they continue on their way. I've never been stung in any of these situations. Only time I've been stung, was a wasp hiding under a railing that I grabbed. I didn't know it was there and I closed my hand over it. It didn't like that, understandably so.
Name: GERALD
Lockhart, Texas (Zone 8b)
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IntheHotofTexas
Aug 29, 2020 12:22 PM CST
Here, it's yellow jackets. I've never found them to be particularly aggressive without cause. In fact, most problems come because they have little hesitation to operate close to humans, which usually exceeds the human's ability to stay calm and not shoo them. But they do seem to have specific limits as to how close you can be permitted to get. It seems to be about three feet for these.

I know when I kept bees, they seemed to become accustomed to me. I could work them in a tee shirt with bare hands and no hood. It must have been hive mind, because they don't live very long to be learning it individually. But I also have a colony in a big hole in an oak tree beside the house. Unlike the domestic hive, this one seems to keep one "sentry bee" out all the time whose mission apparently is to chase off anything that gets within about fifty feet. She's a nuisance. It's only one, and it is clearly an assignment. I've killed one of them when I couldn't work with her attacking, and another one takes up the job.

And my wife has had to give up all her colorful tee shirts. They think its a big flower. Unfortunately, they think the same about my orange Kubota tractor and will follow it a long way. You have to watch the same thing with the yellow jackets. They also feed on nectar.

Now with bees, all bets are off if you wear dark clothing. Apparently, evolution has predisposed them to assume any large dark moving mass is a bear. That's why beekeepers wear white. Bees also get crankly on overcast days. I never tried to work even my gentle Italian bees on dark days.
Name: Lynda Horn
Arkansas (Zone 7b)
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gardenfish
Aug 29, 2020 1:41 PM CST
I'm pretty sure the bees on my hummer feeder are Italian bees, there are two beekeepers within a mile of me. Most of the keepers in my town have the Italian bees.
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Name: Sally
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sallyg
Aug 30, 2020 8:28 AM CST
Only a few wasps around here seem overly agressive/defensive.
I have lots of other wasps and bees that love flowers and seem docile and very happy just eating from the flowers.
i'm pretty OK today, how are you? ;^)
Name: Eric
Hawthorne, fl (Zone 9a)
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Miamiu
Aug 30, 2020 10:26 AM CST
In our garden the insects are more interested in the plants and each other rather than us.
Name: stone
near Macon Georgia (USA) (Zone 8a)
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stone
Aug 31, 2020 12:12 PM CST
When I have wasps nesting in my doorway, I walk through 50 times a day without problems.
I discovered that I have a large nest of wasps under the seat of a garden chair placed next to the garden path... I pulled some cosmos that were growing through the chair... For a few hours, the wasps covered the seat of the chair... I still walked past without problem.
I moved a window that was leaning against the house... got stung. I hadn't been on that side of the house this season!
I totally think it's possible that they get used to us.

Your solitary wasps shouldn't have been aggressive, period.
Seems to me like wasps only show aggression when we disturb the nests... And that only applies to the ones that nest in groups.
CT
Region: Northeast US
samman
Sep 1, 2020 9:30 AM CST
I've never been stung by them, and they were never aggressive towards me. But they also never were comfortable with me until recently. Which is why I thought maybe they've grown accostomed to me. They don't fly away anymore when I water the plants, I'm able to move the plant to the side to prune my other stuff, and the wasps just stay on (they used to panic and fly all over the place when I used to do that).
Name: Deb
Planet Earth (Zone 8b)
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Bonehead
Sep 1, 2020 9:37 AM CST
Perhaps you are now a wasp-whisperer...!
I want to live in a world where the chicken can cross the road without its motives being questioned.
Name: Zoë
Albuquerque NM, Elev 5310 ft (Zone 7b)
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NMoasis
Sep 1, 2020 9:50 AM CST
stone said: ...Your solitary wasps shouldn't have been aggressive, period.
Seems to me like wasps only show aggression when we disturb the nests... And that only applies to the ones that nest in groups.


There is a difference between "aggressive" and "defensive." Even solitary non-aggressive creatures will attack if they feel threatened.
For me, gardening is really just an excuse for playing in the dirt. Admittedly, plants are a satisfying by-product.

Dordee
Sep 5, 2020 4:48 PM CST
Like several others, I have found wasps, hornets and bees are not agressive if I reman calm, move slow. Have had bald faced hornets land on my hand when I spill the hummers sugar water on it. they tickle you as they lap it up. only time I was stung , I was potting plants on my deck ad it started to rain so I opened the umbrella. grabbed a wasp nest doing this and of course they swarmed me. one got me on my chest. Can't really blame them for it, i squashed their nest. next time I will look before I raise the umbrella.
Name: Lynda Horn
Arkansas (Zone 7b)
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gardenfish
Sep 6, 2020 6:41 AM CST
So sorry, I don't WANT a hornet on me! I will tolerate bees and even some wasps, but draw the line at hornets. Probably one of the most painful stings I've ever had, outside of horse flies.
Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.
Mother Teresa

LauraRichardson
Sep 6, 2020 11:40 AM CST
Insects are capable of very complex sensory perceptions and learned behaviors. Honey bees and some paper wasps, social insects, do recognize individual faces, including human ones, so I think it is not too far-fetched to think your wasp neighbors might recognize you as benign. And as others have pointed out, when summer wanes, seasonal insects do slow down, as their lives draw to a close.

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