Watch out for wasps

Central Leader - - NEWS - By AN­TO­NIA AN­DER­SON

David Bell was in the shower one morn­ing last year when he re­alised he was not alone.

Five Ger­man wasps had flown in through the bath­room win­dow when the light was turned on and quickly had him in a state of nude ‘‘swat­ting’’.

‘‘It was enough to make me yell and wake up ev­ery­one in the house,’’ Bell says.

‘‘I’m now very care­ful to check the win­dows are closed be­fore I have a shower.’’

He was stung once and says the ex­pe­ri­ence was trau­matic.

Ger­man and common wasps have no nat­u­ral preda­tors in New Zealand where num­bers are among the high­est in the world.

The mild win­ters and plen­ti­ful food sources means nests can of­ten sur­vive for up to sev­eral sea­sons.

Barry Sharp from Acute Pest Erad­i­ca­tion has been work­ing in the in­dus­try for 40 years and knows the cy­cle well. ‘‘The majority of nests will die (over win­ter) but a few will sur­vive.’’

Sharp says two mild win­ters in a row meant ‘‘it was a bad year last year, ev­ery­thing was just per­fect for them to thrive’’.

‘‘It’s not a good sign if you’re see­ing wasps in win­ter.’’

A 10 litre bucket-sized nest can home up to 5000 wasps. Sharp will de­stroy up to 500 nests in a busy sea­son.

Any Ger­man wasp spot­ted at this time of the year will be a queen build­ing its nest.

Sharp ex­pects this sum­mer won’t be as bad as the last.

‘‘There will still be prob­lems but I don’t think it will be as bad as last sea­son.

‘‘I think we’ve had a slightly wet­ter win­ter so that will def­i­nitely slow them down a bit.’’

Sharp rec­om­mends pro­fes­sional help and urges peo­ple to take cau­tion if they try to de­stroy a nest.

‘‘If you dis­turb their nest they can go into a sting­ing frenzy.’’

Sharp can only re­call one nest he couldn’t kill in all his years of wasp erad­i­ca­tion

‘‘It was about 10 me­tres up a tree and it was way out on a branch. Now we have tools that can reach those nests.’’

The big­gest nest he ever found was the size of a van. The world’s largest recorded wasp nest was dis­cov­ered near Auck­land at Waimauku and was 3.75 me­tres tall and 1.7m wide.

Photo: AN­TO­NIA AN­DER­SON

Gear­ing up: Ex­ter­mi­na­tor Barry Sharp can de­stroy up to 500 nests in a busy sea­son. A 10 litre nest, about the size of a bucket, can home up to 5000 wasps.

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