Most Vespulid* wasp nests die off in late autumn after the queens and drones (males) have been produced. The males and queen mate, the males die and then the queen finds a dark, dry place to hibernate for the winter. Hibernation uses up very little of their stored fat, and most queens survive this resting period.
However, in New Zealand, it is thought that about 10% of German wasp nests are usually able to survive the winter and a smaller proportion of common wasps. In spring, surviving nests already have a strong workforce of worker bees and an existing nest. This means that their numbers can grow very rapidly and reach an enormous size by the end of their second autumn.
The relatively mild winter of 2018 and early enquiries about wasp control suggest that the proportion of surviving nests is much higher than usual this year and summer and early autumn will see many wasp problems with many large wasp colonies.
See the 1-2-3 Wasp Control Programme.