Seen at The Festival of the Tree

...if you would be happy all your life, plant a garden - Chinese proverb

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Official Announcement: It's The Year of the Wasp

I've made a few passing remarks recently on how bad the wasps (aka yellow-jackets if you're reading this across the pond) are this year. There were early signs of trouble up at the allotment at the beginning of July when a newbie plotholder asked me what she should do about the nest on her plot. Later that month I was stung rather badly when a wasp objected to me picking their raspberries. Harrumph. Victoria's reported on her problems with them - with rather public consequences - and they've been a rather annoying presence on various garden visits recently.

Now it's official. It's the worst year for wasps in a decade. In fact the dour pest controller interviewed on Breakfast News a couple of days ago said it's one of the 2 worst instances he's seen in thirty years. Last week the cafe at Dyrham Park - a National Trust property close to here - had to be closed temporarily whilst a nest nearby was dealt with. I understand the situation there's much better now.

At Garden Organic on Tuesday, everyone was partaking in a new dance: the waft a wasp away. This isn't the thing to do if they get rather interested in you as it can anger them even more and increase the likelihood of stinging. Instead, you should stay absolutely still until they get bored and move on. I find muttering go away makes me feel like I'm actually doing something positive whilst playing at statues. I've also changed my approach to raspberry picking: the fruit tends to get a bit hidden under the foliage, so it's very easy to reach underneath to pick and not realise a wasp has just nipped in there. Now I have a good look first and find other fruit to pick if they're around.

I've also put out some traps: lovely coloured glass 'beehives' filled with sugar water to attract them away from my fruit. As you can see, the wasps have upped the ante and bought in reinforcements. Thank goodness these don't get stirred up as easily as their waspish cousins: the pictured hornet just glared at me whilst I picked my way round my raspberry canes.

If you do get stung, it's best to remove yourself from the area at once as the sting delivers a double whammy: a nasty poison plus a pheromone which can attract other wasps in the area to join in the attack. Luckily they didn't in my case even though I did continue to pick my raspberries. However, I did need to go home after a while as I started to react to the venom: the NHS Direct website has information on what to do should this happen to you.

Which pests are you finding the most troublesome this year?

23 comments:

  1. VP girl ... I had no idea it was that bad there ! Do they know what has been the cause of such a surge in activity and population this year?
    I'm not sure my determination for raspberries would drive me to the length you go .. haha. Perhaps if they were dipped in chocolate it might just do the thing for me ?
    Joy ;-)

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  2. Joy - it seems we had a spell of very warm weather just as the wasp larvae were hatching. It's thought there's been pretty much a 100% survival rate into adulthood in spite of the relatively rainy weather we've had since. In a way it's lucky we haven't had the continued hot weather as was originally forecast for the summer.Wasps get even more agressive the hotter it gets.

    There's a bumper plum crop this year - as well as my raspberries - so there's plenty of food around to keep the adults going...

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  3. Ha ha. You say it's a bad year for wasps, but from their perspective it seems to be a very good year!

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  4. It is a bad year indeed for wasps, or rather as Capsid point out - us gardeners.

    One of my friends was carted off to hospital last week when a wasp stung him - he has not been stung since childhood and had an extreme reaction, (we are talking air ambulance here)

    So do take care when out and about.
    K

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  5. Oh VP, same problem over here too. I have been stung twice this season, both times picking something that contained the devilish insects. I didn't know about the pheromone attraction, always dashing inside the house to apply ice immediately. That works the best to keep the poison from spreading, about five or ten minutes. I use a bag of frozen peas, they can mold around my hand and I use a dishtowel around that, sometimes with a large rubber band to hold the whole thing on. The wasps even chase the hummingbirds away from the feeder! The little birds much also suffer stings sometimes.
    Frances

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  6. I'm so used to bees on the plot from a neigbours hives that I don't even look most of the time to see that's what they are! I better pay a bit more attention I think.
    Take care! xx

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  7. Capsid - good point ;)

    Karen - oh no! Oh hope your friend's recovering? I've heard that couple of people have died from severe reactions to wasp stings this year :(

    Frances - Poor birds and poor you!I have to be careful around my apples too as they've been hollowing out my Discovery crop. I hope you've recovered from your stings by now. Thanks for the good points on what to do, though I'm not sure about the rubber band bit as our NHS website says NOT to apply anything like a tourniquet to the area. I suspect you're talking about something just to hold the teatowel in place that's not too tight?

    Flighty - my bee keeping friend over at Diary of a novice bee keeper has had problems with them when he's been harvesting his honey :(

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  8. I think bbqs act as a pheromone to wasps - when we were camping in Dorset a few weeks we were besieged by the flying blighters while cooking our sausages al fresco.

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  9. I agree, Hubby had to go to emergency room because of it.

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  10. I was performing the 'wave a wasp away' dance in a café in Corsica some years ago when an imperious German told me "leave ze vasp alone!". Ignoring him and continuing to flap as the "vasp" flew around me he again said louder "LEAVE ZE VASP ALONE IT VILL GO AWAY!". So I obeyed sitting immobile and leaving the vasp alone and the bloody thing drowned itself in my cappucino!!

    Oooh - wv is unmeri, I certainly was!

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  11. Reminds me of the old joke about a man who goes into a shop

    Man: 'I want to buy a wasp'
    Shopkeeper: 'We don't sell wasps'
    Man: 'But you have one in your window.'

    Ha ha

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  12. I think we were most restrained in our execution of the 'waft the wasp away' dance. But we did become far less interesting when the family with lashings of chocolate cake came out!

    Nothing to do with wasps but just spotted a sign reproduced in the Telegraph last Saturday seen in a village hall in Warwickshire that I thought would cheer you up
    "Will ladies please rinse out teapots, then stand upside down in the sink. ON NO ACCOUNT Must hot bottoms be placed on the worktops."

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  13. They're bad here in Pennsylvania too, Veep. After years of no problems, I've been stung three times already - twice just in the last week (once right through my glove while mowing the meadow, and once as a result of not carefully checking my laundry when I folded it and brought it indoors, or before I got dressed the next day - ow). I've completely given up on picking any more raspberries or blackberries this summer; I'm not taking any chances!

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  14. No problems with Wasps here so far this year... In fact I've had fewer problems than last year with two attempted nests... This year no sign of them attempting to build. Last year I had to keep the summer house and shed doors open to stop the wasps nesting.

    I have however seen far more paracsitic wasps this year.

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  15. We've had problems with nests, but I haven't actually seen many wasps flying around generally!

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  16. They've had a prolific year here in NS, too -- there was an infestation of them inside the outside walls of our apartment building. It was nothing to see 100 of them in "various stages of dying" on the stairwell landings. Ugh! Strangely, I haven't had that many around my flowers...

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  17. Martyn - I think any food acts as a pheromone to wasps at the moment!

    MNG - I'm so sorry - I hope your husband's much better now.

    Arabella - I almost had the same thing happen to my cappucino on Tuesday at Garden Organic. I think it was after the chocolate sprinkled on the top!

    Mark - the old ones are the best! :)

    Maggi - not surprising seeing those slices of cake were HUGE! That's a good one - I think you can buy a sign of that to hang up at home?

    Nan - through a glove? Ouch! Bang goes my theory that they can't sting me through a shirt then...

    Liz - welcome! At last someone has some good news re wasps. I had a nest in the patio last year - which wasn't a good thing to have when I was planting up some of my summer pots as I had to stand right over it. Needless to say it didn't last long. My understanding is that wasps only nest in a particular place for that year only. Perhaps that's why they've not come back to you this year?

    Phoenix C - that's lucky. Perhaps it's been just that bit cooler in Durham?

    Nancy - that doesn't sound too good. I think I'd rather have them around my flowers than in my house!

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  18. Well I am so pleased that our usual wasp problem of many years appears to have moved north because this is the first time we haven't had a wasp nest near a door or window for as long as I can remember. Long may it last.

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  19. Joanne - north? I'm going to have to check out where you are then - I reckon I'm pretty much south here in Chippenham. Perhaps my comment to Liz also applies to you re their non-appearance for you this year?

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  20. Sorry VP I was confusing your location with another blogger. West perhaps from Guildford, without a map not sure but definitely not North.
    Yes your reply to Liz sounds a likely reason they have nested just about everywhere they can.

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  21. Phew, Joanne - glad we got that one sorted out. Fingers crossed the wasps continue to keep away from your area. Have a great weekend!

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  22. Owie! Not. Fun. At. All! Hope they leave your plot sooner rather than later.

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  23. No sign of it yet Susan, but they will eventually!

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