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I decided to ask this question based on the following question a user posted on DIY.

http://diy.stackexchange.com/questions/16965/dealing-with-a-wasp-nest

According to the user quoting his local pest control company:

I called a exterminator (Terminix, actually), and they tried to push a year-long maintenance contract on me, and claimed that wasps leave pheremones, and if you don't continually kill them off, they will keep coming back.

In my own research, there is no note of this particular wasp behaviour on wikipedia, and I have actually found a lot of insect-control websites that specifically say wasps don't nest in the same place every year. This makes me think that Terminix may be stringing me along a bit.

I have in turn found the following claim by another pest control company:

http://www.gemtekpestcontrol.com/pests-wasps

Maintenance Plans Take Away the Sting of Being Stung

This is an integral part of effective pest management because wasps and yellowjackets leave behind pheromones on their nests, which increases the likelihood of a re-infestation.

After reading the OP's question, I was curious myself because I was told the same thing by an exterminator when a wasp nest formed inside my attic from a hole in the soffit. I also could not find this claim outside of Pest Control websites.

It certainly seems like a plausible claim, as I habitually get 5 to 6 wasp nests per year and they usually always form in the same few places, but that may be because they are cozy little corners and near large flowering plants.

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Anecdotal data: i had a wasp nest build up in the same spot in my Brighthouse box 3 times. Maybe its just a very nice spot to build a nest, but maybe they leave that homy smell behind ;) –  Stefan Sep 12 '12 at 21:32
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1 Answer 1

up vote 5 down vote accepted

The the factors that determine nest site location (for honey bees these are well understood, less so for wasps, though things like protection, height off ground, etc. clearly play a part) are the primary reason wasp colonies appear in the same sites year after year. On shorter time scales (for example right after removing a nest) navigational cause will cause surviving nestmates to reappear in the location of the nest. In neither case (and especially in the former) do pheromones play a big role.

However, like honey bees, some wasps do leave a "footprint" pheromone on heavily trafficked areas around the entrances to their nests, which attracts returning foragers, and which may linger and continue to attract the interest of wasps (of any nest) for a time after a nest has been removed. It is unclear however whether it would attract a wasp founding a new nest, since an existing nest would be of no interest to them (quite the opposite, actually).

In short, it's unlikely that pheromones are responsible for the reappearance of a nest in an a previously occupied location; but doing something to clean up or mask any odors left behind after the removal of a nest may help reduce visits by inquisitive foragers.

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Thank you for the well thought out answer, but I am sure you know how the mods here will jump on you if you don't cite sources. –  maple_shaft Sep 12 '12 at 19:11
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