Young queen wasps find a sheltered spot to hibernate through the winter while males and infertile females, including the old queen, die off in the cold weather. Queens mate before the males die off so that they are able to lay new eggs in the spring.
Solitary wasps are the most common and lay their eggs in small nests, in plants, or in the carcasses of other insects. All emerging females are fertile and mate with the males before the males die off in wintering areas.
There are fewer species of social wasps, but some of these species, including yellow jackets and hornets, are common in North America. The nesting habits of the social wasp center around the survival and reproduction of one or more queens, and all colony members contribute to this end. Male drones exist to mate with the queen, and female worker wasps support the colony through scavenging for food, constructing the nest, and tending to the queen’s offspring. As the queen hibernates in the winter, these support tasks are no longer required, and the colony dies. A replacement colony emerges in the spring.
Wasp nests are safely disposed of in the winter, but disposing of the nests has no effect on the survival of the colonies. The queen abandons the nest in the winter, leaving it to deteriorate. The queen instead burrows in the soil or leaf litter or finds a dark secluded spot to hibernate.