Wasps survive warm winter to pester SIUE campus


EDWARDSVILLE, IL (KTVI) - There was a buzz before class began on the southern Illinois University Edwardsville campus. It seemed some wasps had set up a residence in the Lovejoy Library and Peck Building.

"Wasps had come into a building in high numbers," says Jake Williams, Associate Professor Biology. "So they found some way to get into that building and into that area. It being a relatively warm winter they started gearing up for spring relatively early. So the combination with the higher temperature of the building they were able to increase their numbers and become active earlier."

The university is still dealing with the nuisance neighbors. But when it comes to wasps, bees and other bugs, Jake Williams has the answers, like say metabolic rates in miniature flying insects?

"So I look at how animals are able to survive low metabolism and winter like freezing," says Williams. "So how do certain insects survive extreme temperatures? And how do some survive being frozen solid. So I study the physiological basis of that ability to freeze solid and survive."

You can bet he'll be taking notes on the latest wasps who warmed up inside a classroom, when he's not busy attending to his bee colonies. The associate professor of biology cares for honey bees but was well aware when the rusty patched bumble bee was declared endangered this week.

"It is local and native to the Midwest and has been found in Illinois and Missouri, but not for some time," says Williams.

Williams works to help keep pollinators like bees on the SIUE campus and understand what makes wasps survive on a college campus or your own home.

"They will create colonies externally or actually internally in a house," says Williams. "So if there is an avenue or way to get inside your house around your eves, you can find a nesting colony of bees or wasps in there."

When in doubt over a wasp or other buzzing insect, you might bee well served asking an insect expert.