Hive of in­for­ma­tion after great shot

Midwest Times - - TIMES NEWS -

Mt Tar­coola res­i­dent Ann Mor­gan said she just had to show off this photo of a pa­per wasp taken by her daugh­ter Stacey Ste­wart.

Stacey, who was vis­it­ing her par­ents’ home to pick up some wire for her veg­etable gar­den, saw the wasp on their back­yard fence and snapped a shot with her iPhone.

“I thought, ‘wow what a beau­ti­ful look­ing pic­ture’, so I knew I just had to do some­thing with this photo,” Mrs Mor­gan said.

So the Mid­west Times de­cided to do a lit­tle re­search on wasp ac­tiv­ity in the re­gion to ac­com­pany Stacey’s great snap.

Less deadly than bees and mos­qui­toes, though still caus­ing be­tween 50 and 60 deaths a year, the Euro­pean wasp is a pest to watch out for, says De­part­ment of Pri­mary In­dus­tries and Re­gional De­vel­op­ment en­to­mol­o­gist Marc Wid­mer. The wasps, which pack in be­tween 10,000 and 20,000 of them­selves per hectare of air nine months of the year, are ac­ci­den­tally shipped to WA ev­ery year and pose a sig­nif­i­cant threat to Mid West ecosys­tems and agri­cul­tural in­dus­tries.

“The queens are shipped over here ac­ci­den­tally in freight, cargo, pal­lets and boxes from the Eastern States, in places such as New South Wales, Vic­to­ria, Tas­ma­nia and South Aus­tralia,” Mr Wid­mer said.

“So it’s im­por­tant for peo­ple in Ger­ald­ton and other port cities to be on the look­out for them.

“En­vi­ron­men­tally, they’re a se­ri­ous pest as they usurp the food com­pletely out of the ecosys­tem by eat­ing lit­tle in­ver­te­brates, spi­ders, bees, nec­tar and pollen. Agri­cul­tur­ally, they’re a detri­ment to the soft fruits in­dus­try — they get into honey bee hives and I’ve even seen them kill chick­ens in hatch­eries.”

The Euro­pean wasp is an on­go­ing fo­cus for the De­part­ment of Pri­mary In­dus­tries and Re­gional De­vel­op­ment, which op­er­ates a Euro­pean wasp sur­veil­lance and erad­i­ca­tion pro­gram to keep num­bers un­der con­trol.

Mr Wid­mer said all sight­ings of the Euro­pean wasp should be re­ported to the de­part­ment, but res­i­dents should fa­mil­iarise them­selves with the key dif­fer­ences be­tween Euro­pean wasps and the com­mon pa­per wasps.

“They’re both black and yel­low, so they look very sim­i­lar,” he said.

“One of the most no­tice­able dif­fer­ences is that the Euro­pean wasp has an all-black an­tenna, whereas the pa­per wasp has an or­angey­brown an­tenna.”

“An­other dis­tin­guish­able dif­fer­ence is that the pa­per wasp dan­gles its legs when in flight and tends to hover, whereas the Euro­pean wasp doesn’t hang its legs low.”

“Euro­pean wasps also go for meat and pro­tein, whereas pa­per wasps will go for live cater­pil­lars, nec­tar or honey dew.

“So if you see some buzzing around your out­door bar­be­cue, it’s prob­a­bly the Euro­pean wasp.”

West­ern Aus­tralia is the only place in the world within Euro­pean wasp range where the in­sect hasn’t been able to es­tab­lish.

If you find a Euro­pean wasp, call the De­part­ment of Pri­mary In­dus­tries and Re­gional De­vel­op­ment’s Pest and Disease In­for­ma­tion Ser­vice on 9368 3080.

Pic­ture: Stacey Ste­wart

A pa­per wasp on a fence in Ger­ald­ton.

Euro­pean wasp and Pa­per wasp sizes com­pared to a 50¢ coin.

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