Wasp-ish

Amusing letters in the Bay of Plenty Times this week about what not to do with a wasps’ nest. First up (on February 4) was someone who offered the advice “where german wasps are concerned don’t try to deal with them yourself unless you know what you are doing” and was probably written in response to this story in the paper on February 1.

He/she (I suspect he) writes that fly spray only provoked them and a hose even more so! “I ran like hell.” The parting advice is get in a professional, so here is some advice from a professional.

A wasp nest under construction.

Ruud, “the bugman” Kleinpaste, in his book Backyard Battlefield (2005, Random House), says of paper wasps:

“Established nests are easy to terminate at any stage. All the wasps are home after sunset and later in the evening temperatures are lower, so the reaction time is longer as they sit – head first – in their cells. Approach is easy and should be swift – either spray the face of the nest thoroughly with an aerosol (fly spray will do) or sever the nest’s stalk, dropping it into a plastic bag (without holes). Tie the bag up before the dozy buggers back out of their cells and chuck it into the freezer overnight for a cool kill.”

His advice for german wasps involves evening or night-time, two people (one to carry the torch) and kerosene or diesel, or chemical products bought expressly for the purpose. The fumes of the diesel/kerosene will kill the nest – Ruud suggests carrying the liquid in a bottle and jamming the bottle into the nest entrance to block it. NEVER light it and DON’T linger, the wasps will be attracted to the torchlight.

His other stern piece of advice, too late for our letter writer, is NEVER use a garden hose to try and flood the nest.

The other correspondent (February 7), oh, let’s call him Gordon (cause that’s his name) suggests putting your chemical of choice in the end of a  metre-long piece of garden hose, approaching the nest at night (with someone to hold the torch), getting the hose just inside the opening of the nest and … blowing!

“Warning – make sure you get the hose the right way round,” Gordon advises in a somewhat redundant fashion, but then he has form. “We once used this system for drenching horses – only the horse blew first”. Priceless.

Ruud also makes the point that you should identify your target as there are a dozen or so beneficial parasitic wasps in this country preying on pests such as the cabbage white butterfly. Environment Waikato offers a useful set of identification drawings.

And while we’re on the subject of flying, buzzing things – did you know there aren’t any bumblebees in mainland Australia? Tasmania has bumblebees (Bombus terrestris), thought to have arrived from New Zealand but that’s as far as Australia would like them to advance, thank you very much.

Cute critter.

They are such useful, and charming, workers in the garden. I haven’t seen as many honeybees this year so the bumblebees may have been doing the bulk of our pollination. Here’s a whole website (originally) dedicated to bumblebees only.

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