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Anna33Anna33 Posts: 310
edited August 2021 in Wildlife gardening
I need some advice about wasps, please.

I have a huge bank of willow (it's the type of living willow that can be used as a fence/hedge type thingy), which desperately needs cutting back again, but it's smothered in wasps.

I've had a look as best I can, and as far as I can see there is no wasps nest. However the amount of wasps that are on the willow would suggest otherwise, and the little buggers have been stripping my garden furniture for their nests. I have been trying to follow where the wasps fly off to after they've got what they want from my table & chairs, but they seem to fly in all directions - one went back to the willow, another flew off and out of the garden, so not very helpful.

Anyway, my theory on why they are there is because there are aphids on the willow, so they are either eating the aphids or drinking the honeydew from them. But... there are so many wasps!!! The willow is alive with them. They seem to crawl up the leaves, fly out, and start again, and they fight with each other and knock each other to the ground.

I'm wondering what the likelihood of there being a wasps nest is, as research seems to suggest they are more likely to nest in cavities/holes etc rather than out in the open like this.

If they are just after the aphids, then when can I reasonably expect the wasps to start disappearing?

And finally, would I enrage them if I started chopping back the overgrown willow if I was feeling brave enough???

Pic for info:


  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Posts: 83,755
    I wouldn’t cut back until November when it’s dormant … cutting it back now could encourage a huge amount of bushy growth which really isn’t what you want with a living fence. 

    Gardening in Central Norfolk on improved gritty moraine over chalk ... free-draining.

  • WoodgreenWoodgreen Posts: 1,273
    If you saw them carrying nest material to the willow area I would be careful. They may have made a nest in a hole in the ground, an old mouse hole or similar.
  • Anna33Anna33 Posts: 310
    Yep, that is a possibility I hadn't thought of...! I'm just so curious as to why they are covering the willow, and whether it is purely sugar seeking or whether it is nesting. I've noticed they disappear when it's dark, so maybe they go to sleep?? I have to admit  I don't know huge amounts about the behaviour of wasps in the same way I do about bees.

    I am going to have to cut at least some of the willow back soon, though (sorry Dove!) as it is huge and taking over that whole corner. It was planted by the previous occupants, and whilst it looks nice when trimmed back, it wouldn't have been my first choice of plant.....
  • LoxleyLoxley Posts: 5,224
    I'm sure they're after honeydew as you suspected. We worked on a play area with a living willow tunnel, and were told 'no more willow!' because of the wasps it attracts.
  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 52,027
    @Anna33 -I don't see any problem with taking it out if you feel it's a problem, but just be careful!
    I have two nests in the garden just now - one in a raised bed and one in the purpose built bee house [typical!]  and I was having to work on replacing part of my back fence which was between both of them. Fortunately, I'm not bothered by them, but it could have been a problem if I was allergic to stings etc.
    I enjoy watching them drink at the pond, and they're very keen on the fennel flowers just now. Vital pollinators.  :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
  • PosyPosy Posts: 3,601
    I would be very careful. Your willow won't get much bigger now, so you can afford to wait to cut it back without danger of attack. If, like me, you are in the country, you may also be assisted by nature itself. We have had several wasp nests in our garden and just at the point when they were beginning to concern me, badgers came and tore them out, eating up all the young and tearing the structure to bits. Good luck.
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