It’s an annoying summertime occurrence – you walk out to your car only to find wasps buzzing around the side mirrors. No matter how many times you shoo them away, they keep returning. Why do wasps seem so strangely attracted to side view mirrors?
After researching wasp behavior and vision, scientists have uncovered the key reasons wasps and other insects are lured to car mirrors. Read on to learn the fascinating science behind this pesky phenomenon.
How Wasps See Car Mirrors
To understand why wasps target car mirrors, you first have to look at what they see when they look at a mirror.
Wasps have very different vision compared to humans. They can see ultraviolet light that is invisible to our eyes. Many flowers, plants, and trees reflect UV light in patterns that guide wasps to food sources.
In the same way, a car mirror reflects and scatters UV light in intricate patterns and wavelengths. To a wasp, a car mirror looks like flashing neon sign compared to a normal dull surface.
This is the first allure of mirrors to wasps – the pulsing ultraviolet reflections grab their attention from a distance.
Warmth of Mirrors Attracts Wasps
Another feature that draws wasps to mirrors is warmth.
As mirrors face and reflect the sun, they heat up significantly. The mirror surface can be 10°F to 20°F warmer than the ambient air temperature.
Warmth equates to life and shelter for cold-blooded wasps. They instinctively flock to warm spots to regulate their body temperature and seek refuge.
Testing shows that wasps hover around heated mirrors but ignore the same mirrors when cold. The warmth offers them an ideal climate.
Reflected Ultraviolet Light Confuses Wasps
Wasps have complex navigation skills using polarized light. But the odd reflective properties of mirrors scatter polarized light. This confuses an incoming wasp.
Instead of seeing a flat surface, the wasp’s navigation senses are tricked into perceiving a 3D object with depth and texture. This spiderweb-like effect lures them in to explore.
The phenomenon is similar to birds who fatally crash into windows, also misjudging reflective surfaces. Wasps luckily bounce off unharmed, but remain perpetually confused and attracted.
Mirrors Look Like Water Sources
Here’s another reason wasps accumulate around mirrors – they mistakenly perceive them as sources of water.
Wasps require water not just for drinking, but to build protective nesting pulp. A moist mirror can reflect blue sky and clouds, signaling an inviting watering hole.
The appearance of puddles and droplets on a mirror further support the illusion. Wasps often skim mirrors expecting to land on water.
Unfortunately when they make contact, they simply bump into a dry solid surface over and over. But the optical illusion keeps them returning hoping for water.
Perfumes and Food Residue Lure Wasps In
Wasps have an excellent sense of smell. Any perfumes, food residue, or other scents on or near your mirror can pull wasps in closer to investigate.
Sweet-smelling fragrances are especially wasp-friendly. They associate sweetness with ripe fruit and flower nectar.
Any errant sticky soda spill, parking lot ice cream drips, or pastry crumbs can cling to mirrors and produce an aroma buffet for wasps. They buzz nearer seeking a snack.
Even undetectable food traces we can’t smell attract wasps with their sensitive chemical sensors. Keeping mirrors pristine removes this lure.
Mirrored Surfaces Appear Like Nesting Sites
Here’s one final explanation for why wasps congregate on mirrors – the reflections mimic potential nesting sites.
Wasps build intricate honeycomb paper nests full of individual cells on surfaces like tree branches, overhangs, and cavities.
The small hexagonal shapes and compartments reflected in a car mirror instinctively signal an ideal nest spot to investigate. The repeating shadowy cells formed by reflections intrigue scouting worker wasps.
Of course when inspected up close, the reflections do not offer tangible nesting opportunities. But the optical mimicry continues to grab their interest.
Preventing Wasps From Swarming Car Mirrors
To deter wasps from treating your car mirrors like a social hot spot, try these tips:
- Spray mirrors with repellents formulated for wasps
- Cover mirrors with paper bags when parked
- Use mirror shades or covers when not driving
- Park car in garage to limit access
- Wash mirrors well with soapy water to remove residue
- Avoid wearing sweet fragrances in your car
- Have windows up when possible so food scents don’t escape
- Add mesh screens on car vents to block access behind mirrors
Making mirrors an unappealing environment will discourage wasps from congregating. Be sure to also check for any nearby nests which may need removal.
When to Worry About Wasp Swarms Around Car
Most of the time, wasps on your mirrors are simply a nuisance but not a true threat. However, take extra caution if you notice:
- Aggressive or erratic behavior from the wasps
- Getting stung when entering your vehicle
- Evidence of a nest attached to the car itself
- Increased swarming at night rather than daytime
- Presence of wasps inside the vehicle or vents
These signs could indicate a more serious issue requiring extermination. Always use extreme care cleaning mirrors or handling cars with live wasp colonies.
FAQs About Wasps and Car Mirrors
Do wasps mistake car mirrors for water?
Yes, the reflective properties of mirrors can mimic bodies of water to wasps. They may skim the surface expecting to land on water for drinking or nest building.
Why do wasps attack car mirrors?
Wasps don’t purposefully attack mirrors – they are tricked by the reflections and warmth that mirrors give off. Their vision sees an inviting habitat while we just see a mirror.
How do you get rid of wasps on car mirrors?
Use dedicated wasp repellent sprays on mirrors, cover them when parked, and eliminate any nests attached to the vehicle. Wash mirrors well to remove lingering scents attracting the wasps.
Are car mirrors bad for wasps?
No, mirrors don’t harm wasps despite repeated contact. The wasps are simply confused by the optical reflections. They will safely bounce off mirrors without injury.
Should I smash wasps on my car mirror?
No, forcibly crushing them against the mirror can aggravate the wasps and release pheromones summoning more wasps to the perceived threat. It can make the problem worse.
Why do wasps keep coming back to the same spot on my mirror?
Scents from perfume or food residue likely persist at that specific spot, continuing to attract wasps. Use soapy water and cleaning solution to fully eliminate any lingering smells summoning wasps.
Wasps flock to car mirrors because of the warmth, ultraviolet light reflections, optical illusions, and scents that trick wasps into thinking mirrors are either resources or nest sites. While a nuisance for drivers, the wasp confusion is biologically driven. With some strategic deterrents, you can hopefully minimize wasp mirror squatters and send them buzzing elsewhere.
The next time you find wasps loitering around your side view mirrors, remember they aren’t attacking – they’re just thoroughly confused! The clever insect vision and senses of wasps get utterly misled by mirrored surfaces. Use the science-backed deterrents in this guide to prevent your car from becoming a wasp watering hole or social club. A few simple tricks should have them looking for hangouts elsewhere and keep you sting-free in the driver’s seat.Sharing Is Caring: