Watch Out – Here Come the Wasps

Here they come folks – take cover! Yes, it’s August and we must prepare ourselves for a pest invasion into our workplaces and domestic dwellings that can be extremely annoying, frightening, harmful to health and potentially life-threatening in some cases. They are the scourge of picnics and summer dining whose irritating presence is felt by some to be an exercise in near torment. These yellow and black striped enemies of human leisure – namely wasps – take a particular interest in human affairs at this time of year. Why? – by this time of year they have become addicted to sweet sugar and their usual supply has by this time been terminated. The wasps are therefore after our own sweet food to feed their addiction.

It is a fact rarely acknowledged, although it is increasingly becoming an issue for debate, that a large number of food products in the UK contain sugar in some form. Getting yours greens is very important for diet and nutrition, but did you know that salad dressing can contain up to 7 grams of sugar in one serving – look out for ingredients such as honey, dextrose, glucose and maltose. Although savoury to the taste, many pasta sauces contain between 6 and 12 grams per serving – a similar amount to a slice of cake. The natural sugar constituent of fruit – fructose – although good for you, is sugar nonetheless. A considerable amount of processed foods contain sugar: the higher up the sugar appears in the list of ingredients, the more sugar there is in such food products. Energy and granola bars, while appealing to those of us with healthy intentions, contain large amounts of sugar. Many supermarket sandwiches have sugar added to them in order to sweeten the bitter taste. In certain brands, one slice of wholemeal or white bread can contain up to half a teaspoon of sugar. We often overlook the amount of sugar contained in alcoholic drinks: in one pint of cider there can be up to 20 grams of sugar.

With such a considerable array of sugar-containing food on our dining tables and picnic blankets, it is small wonder that wasps can be such a nuisance in August. Why, then, is it that the wasps become so troublesome in turning their attention to our food stuffs at this time of year? Unlike bees, wasps are carnivorous. Having emerged in spring, their natural carnivorous inclinations leads them to feed on small, infant grubs. These grubs, however, exude a sweet secretion to which the wasps become addicted – yes, they develop a real sweet tooth and become ‘sugar junkies’. By the time August comes around, these grubs have grown to maturity and no longer exude the sweet secretion. Therefore the wasps are left with a need for sweet sugar while their usual resource has been terminated. Given the broad range of human foods that contain sugar, they, of course, turn their attention to us.

If you have been on a picnic, or have sat in the beer garden of a public house sipping away at an alcoholic beverage at this time of year, your will be familiar with the potential nuisance wasps can cause. Certain individuals can be very nervous of them: I’m sure you have seen someone stand up quickly and run around swiping at the wasp without success. People are scared of being stung; but there is more room for concern that that. If a wasp has previously been feeding on a dirty food source, it can transfer disease to your food product from there, potentially causing you illness. Furthermore, certain individuals when stung by a wasp have an allergic reaction to the poison in the wasp’s stinger. This can cause them to go into anaphylactic shock. Such a reaction has the potential to cause death as the respiratory faculties can become swollen resulting in asphyxiation.

TIP 1: if you are visited by a loan wasp when eating or drinking outside, or if it comes into your house where you are eating or drink, isolate it in a sealed container. This will prevent the loan wasp from returning to its nest and communicating the location of the food source to the other wasps. Do not kill it – when a wasp is in danger it will release a pheromone that will signal to the other wasps its location with the effect that they will defend it.

TIP 2: make sure that refuse containers such as rubbish bins that are at the exterior of the house are tightly sealed – our food waste attracts wasps.

TIP 3: in August, make sure that you keep doors and windows to the outside closed for as long as possible. It is a common misconception that open doors and windows will cool down your house or business premises – doing so simply allows warm air to enter the building. By keeping the opening of doors and windows to minimum you minimise the chance of wasps entering your buildings.

TIP 4: if you suspect that you have a wasps’ nest in your house or business premises, CALL PESTCOTEK for advice (and keep children and domesticated animals away from the area where you suspect you have the infestation). We have the certified expertise to advise you on the best course of action, and if it is necessary, we will intervene professionally.

Remember: If you find nest, and it is not on your own property, you have very little control over the situation and there is very little you can do in terms of removing the nest. Sometimes, even if the nest is on your property, it can be in a very hard-to-reach area; therefore the extent intervention and removal can be limited. Wasps tend to build nests in lofts, eaves, sheds and wall cavities.