As we enjoy the last of a summer’s sun in the back garden, we often seem to get bothered by wasps more and more and they seem intent on dive-bombing glasses of drinks – both soft and alcoholic drinks. Why does this happen and why now?
It isn’t our imagination; it does happen and it occurs more and more frequently as late Summer turns into Autumn, and there are a few reasons why it happens, although one of those reasons is mainly responsible. When worker wasps take back small insects to feed to the wasp larvae back in the nest, they are actually rewarded for their efforts by the larva they are feeding in the form of a regurgitated sweet honey-like substance. Wasps do not make honey like honey bees but this highly sweet substance is as close as they get. For many weeks this cycle of feeding larva and being rewarded with a sweet liquid continues and it isn’t hard to imagine any living creature developing a rather sweet tooth in response to this regular meal. The problems for us living near a wasp nest is that once the last lot of larva have turned into wasps, the workers are rather abruptly cut off from their favourite meal and basically start suffering a kind of withdrawl syndrome. If we were to ask a person to suddenly stop eating any and all sugary foods, you can bet there would be unpleasant side-effects and it would be reasonable to assume the person might go through a period of constantly thinking about sweet foods!
With this in mind, it is understandable that when these wasps are suddenly cut off from their source, they are going to go looking for a substitute elsewhere… This often will be a back garden or patio area where people are enjoying some warm weather and sunshine. Most alcoholic drinks have a fair amount of sugar in them and of course the kids’ fizzy drinks are also loaded with sugar. This is just irresistible to any wasps around. They can detect the sugar content in the air around a glass of cola and they will head straight to the glass to get their sugar fix. Wasps are often to be found in and around bins and recycling areas which contain empty wine bottles etc. Just the residue on the inside of an empty bottle is more than enough to satisfy the cravings of a wasp.
While these wasps are out and about searching for some sugar, they are likely to be ill-tempered and we know that wasps are pretty quick to sting at the best of times, let alone when they are starving of the food that has sustained them for months. Wasps are more likely to sting as they inevitably come into contact with the humans that will be around, holding, pouring and clearing away what to a wasp must be butter-mountain sized amounts of sweet liquid!
What to do?
If you find yourself battling wasps in and around Aberdeenshire, and you know you have a wasp nest on your property, it might now be the time to get it taken care of professionally. Some people can live with a nest nearby if it doesn’t directly impact their day-to-day life and wasps do have their part to play in our ecosystem, however, having a number of angry wasps spoiling an afternoon outside is not fun and for those unlucky enough to be allergic to wasps stings, it is a clear cut case of safety first….get it treated!
If there isn’t actually a nest on your property, but you are still bothered by wasps, what can you do?
There are a number of commercially available and DIY wasp traps that can be useful in cutting down the numbers of wasps around. They mostly are based on the principle of having a very sweet liquid bait which either draws them into a one-way trap, or actually drowns the wasps itself. The best solution for troublesome wasps is obviously to get the nest itself treated but wasp traps can help reduce wasp numbers on your property and also hopefully provide a lure to tempt wasps in and away from our drinks and food.
We would always recommend using a professional pest control technician to treat an actual nest, rather than attempting to do so yourself. The professional technician will have all the right personal protective equipment – coveralls to limit personal insecticide exposure, a bee-keeper’s hat or full-body suit to prevent stings, leather gauntlets to protect the hands, a respirator mask to prevent inhalation and safety goggles to prevent exposure to the eyes. Believe me when I say that wasps are capable of stinging through several layers of clothing! They have even been known to penetrate a bee-keeper suit so just imagine how bad it could be to be attacked by multiple wasps without wearing all the gear! Professionals also have access to a range of products and application equipment not available to the public. Add to all this the valuable experience of dealing with countless previous nests, the professional can safely take care of a problem nest, provide reassurance to customers and also a wealth of knowledge that just cannot be found elsewhere.
If we are lucky enough to enjoy an Indian Summer this year in the North-East, it need not be spoiled by ravenous wasps – but if they appear, you know what can be done!