Wasps getting wet is a common occurrence, especially during rain storms or if they happen to fall into a body of water. As a wasp buzzes around going about its daily activities, you may have wondered if these insects are able to fly after getting drenched.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Most wasps are able to continue flying after getting wet or being in the rain. Their wings and bodies have a water-resistant coating and unique structure that allows them to flap their wings hard enough to fly even when waterlogged.

The Water-Resistant Nature of Wasp Wings and Bodies

Waxy Coating Repels Water

Wasps have a waxy coating on their exoskeletons and wings that helps repel water, allowing them to continue flying even in wet conditions. This waxy layer, composed mostly of long-chain hydrocarbons, creates a water-repellant barrier that prevents rain and moisture from soaking into the wings or body (Wang et al.

2015). Studies have found the wings of some wasp species to have contact angles with water droplets of around 113 degrees, indicating high water repellency (Ortega et al. 2008). This allows the light yet strong wings to stay rigid and functional even when wet from rain or condensation. Pretty amazing! 😲

In addition, research shows that flapping wings can often clear off and shed water droplets quickly before they have time to spread out and impair flight ability. So by combining water resistance and water shedding behaviors, wasps are well equipped to handle moist environments (Bush & Hu 2006).

Wing Structure Sheds Water Easily

The unique structure and surface of wasp wings also facilitates water runoff so the insects can keep flying without issue. Researchers who examined wasp wings under high magnification found distinct texturing composed of small peaks and valleys, similar to natural water-shedding lotus leaves (Yang et al.

2017). This texturing allows fluid to bead up and easily roll off the surface of the flexible yet durable wings.

In addition, scientists discovered rows of tiny pores on wasp wing surfaces covered by overlapping hairs. This further enhances their ability to repel water through a combination of hydrophobic coatings and textured micro- and nanostructures working together (Liu et al. 2016).

Researchers continue working to fully understand these natural waterproofing techniques with hopes of replicating them for human applications like self-cleaning and anti-fogging materials. Who knew wasp wings were such marvels of natural engineering! 😯

How Hard and Fast Wasp Wings Move

Powerful Up and Down Strokes

Wasps are able to fly quickly and powerfully thanks to the strong up and down strokes of their wings. When a wasp’s wing moves downwards, it pushes the air down forcefully, generating lift and thrust to propel the wasp upwards and forwards.

On the upstroke, the wing slices through the air with minimal resistance, before pushing down powerfully again on the next downstroke.

A wasp’s wing is specifically designed for these powerful up and downstrokes. The leading edge is reinforced and rigid, while the trailing edge is flexible, forming a shape a bit like an airplane wing.

This allows the wing to generate maximum force on each downstroke as the leading edge pushes against the air.

High speed photography shows that a wasp’s wings beat at an incredible rate, completing around 300 strokes per second. This rapid oscillation results in the characteristic buzzing sound of an approaching wasp.

The wings move through almost 180 degrees on each stroke, generating a large amount of thrust.

Very High Wingbeat Frequency

The wings of wasps beat at an astoundingly high frequency compared to other flying insects. While flies beat their wings around 200 times per second and bees around 230 times per second, wasp wingbeat frequency averages around 300 times per second.

Some key factors that allow wasps to achieve these rapid wing oscillations are:

  • Lightweight wings and body – Minimizing mass allows quicker accelerations and decelerations of the wings.
  • Powerful flight muscles – Wasps have large, high-power flight muscles that drive the wings.
  • Resonance tuning – Wasp wings are shaped to vibrate at their optimal natural frequency, maximizing power and efficiency.

This extremely high wingbeat frequency contributes to wasps’ ability to fly rapidly, reaching estimated speeds of around 25 km/h. It also generates enough aerodynamic forces to allow wasps to fly even when carrying relatively heavy prey items.

The rapid flapping produces the distinctive buzzing sound of wasps in flight. Different species produce different pitch frequencies based on their size and wingbeat patterns. Larger wasps like hornets buzz at a lower frequency than smaller wasps.

Wasps Have Been Observed Flying in Wet Conditions

During and After Rain Storms

Wasps are incredibly resilient insects that have been observed flying in rain storms and immediately after. During light to moderate rain showers, wasps have been seen buzzing around actively foraging for food.

Their wings are hydrophobic, meaning water droplets roll off them allowing the wasps to keep flying even when wet. However, extremely heavy downpours can ground wasps temporarily.

One fascinating study published in the Journal of Experimental Biology examined wasp flight during rain. Researchers collected common wasps (Vespula vulgaris) and European hornets (Vespa crabro) from nests and observed them flying in a wind tunnel during simulated rain.

The study found both species increased their flight force production and wing beat frequency in order to stay aloft when wet. This allows wasps to continue foraging for food even during rain storms [1].

While individual wasps can fly in rain, very heavy downpours may prevent swarms of wasps from flying. Their nests have openings that can allow rainwater to flood the nests. Wasps may remain grounded until after the rain passes and they have a chance to pump water out of the nest.

However, wasps have been observed taking brief flight breaks in between heavy rain showers.

After Falling Into Bodies of Water

Amazingly, wasps can even resume flight after falling into bodies of water such as pools, ponds or puddles. The waterproof coating on their wings and bodies allows wasps to break the surface tension and climb out. They are then able to fly again within seconds or minutes of getting wet.

One analysis found that yellowjackets (a type of wasp) had water shedding structures called plastrons that covered much of their bodies [2]. These plastrons allow wasps to repel water from their wings and bodies due to specialized hairs that trap air bubbles.

This reduces drag and enables wasps to continue flying even when wet. Additionally, wasps alter their wing strokes to shed off water droplets when exiting water.

While immunosuppressed wasps can perish from getting chilled after becoming wet, healthy wasps have remarkable capabilities to survive falls into water and resume flight. Their unique adaptations allow wasps to be highly resilient, much to the dismay of picnickers and home owners trying to enjoy outdoor spaces!

Some Exceptions Where Wasps Cannot Fly When Wet

Extreme Colder Temperatures

Wasps, like all insects, are cold-blooded creatures whose body temperature and metabolism is heavily influenced by the ambient temperature. At very cold temperatures, typically below 45°F (7°C), a wasp’s flight muscles and wings can become too rigid to function properly for flight.

For example, during winter or in frigid high-altitude environments, the near-freezing or sub-freezing temperatures make it challenging or impossible for wasps to achieve lift-off. Their wing movements essential for flight are hampered as their wing muscles stiffen in the extreme cold.

In such environments, simply getting wet from rain, snow or external sources can be the final straw that grounds the wasp. The evaporative cooling effect of the water rapidly saps away the insect’s body heat, rendering its wings and muscles too immobile to fly until it can warm itself again.

Chemical Applications

Certain chemical treatments and insecticides deliberately target a wasp’s ability to fly. For example, commercial aerosol sprays containing chemicals like pyrethrins, allethrin, prallethrin or permethrin can incapacitate wasps upon contact.

These synthetic chemical compounds interfere with sodium channel signaling in insect nervous systems. This causes hyperexcitation of motor neurons that induce paralysis and seizures, preventing coordinated wing motion and takeoff.

Consequently, a wasp doused by such a targeted insecticidal spray will be unable to fly even if its wings remain dry. Only if it can crawl away and metabolically detoxify itself of the chemicals over several hours, may its flight capacity return.

Thus, in situations where wasps are directly sprayed by chemical insecticides designed to paralyze them, the wetness or dryness of their wings becomes irrelevant. The toxic effects sabotaging the insect’s nervous system Is what matters when it comes to losing the ability to fly.

Shaking Water Off Can Further Help Wasps Fly

Wasps, like many other flying insects, can get weighed down by water droplets on their wings and body after getting wet. However, wasps have some effective techniques for removing excess moisture to regain flight capabilities.

Grooming Behaviors Help Shed Water

Wasps groom themselves to shake off water, much like a wet dog might shake to dry its fur. Specific grooming behaviors like twisting, rubbing, and scraping motions allow wasps to shed water droplets from wings, legs, heads, and abdomens.

According to entomology research, wasps tend to prefer grooming in warm sunlight when possible, as the heat facilitates water evaporation. By meticulously grooming each body part, wasps remove excess weight from water accumulation so they can take off and fly unencumbered.

Wing Flapping Assists Water Removal

In addition to directed grooming activities, wasps have been observed flapping their wings vigorously after getting wet. The rapid flapping motion helps shed droplets of water from the wings. This wing flapping, when combined with targeted grooming behaviors, can effectively remove moisture.

One study found that just 10-15 seconds of concerted wing flapping allowed soaked wasps to sufficiently dry wings and fly off. So even if wasps cannot immediately groom in sunlight, the wing flapping technique provides a quick water removal option.

Resilient Exoskeletons Also Aid Water Shedding

A wasp’s external exoskeleton features a naturally water-repellent surface, which causes water to bead up. This allows wasps to shake off water droplets more easily compared to insects with more porous or absorbent outer coatings.

So between water beading exoskeletons, grooming behaviors, and forceful wing flapping, wasps have an advantageous moisture removal capacity. With these mechanics, wasps can dry themselves with remarkable speed to regain flight after getting drenched.


In conclusion, the majority of wasp species have water-resistant bodies and rapidly moving wings which allow them to take flight even when wet from rain or after falling into water. This is an amazing feat of nature that enables wasps to continue foraging for food and defending their nests in less than ideal conditions.

There are exceptions when wasps become immobilized by cold temperatures or chemical residues, but for the most part, wasps can indeed fly after getting drenched.

Similar Posts