What of the wasp?

 

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself…and wasps.
They’re vicious little bastards and can’t be trusted.

-David AttenboroughIt’s late Summer and a familiar scene will take place in beer gardens across the country. Flash mob wasp dance.

That moment when a table full of revellers jump up together and the beer flies everywhere. The lashing arms hold makeshift beer Mat swatters that cut through the air as the groups rush in the synchronous style of a boy band as a result of the arrival of wasps.

 

wasp-1056027_1280

In our gardens and allotments too. Many a task is disrupted as we flee these yellow and black beasts. Running laps around beds with resounding squeals.

Wasps are classified under the order of Hymenoptera – The third largest order of insects. The name refers to their membranous wings.

The most common wasps belong to the family Vespidae and live together in a nest with a queen who lays eggs and non-reproducing workers.  The vast majority of wasp species are solitary insects. After she mates, the adult female forages alone and if she builds a nest it is for the benefit of her own offspring.

 

wasp-626459_1280Solitary wasps spend most of their time making their nests and foraging for food for their young.

Unlike bees, the vast majority of wasps play no role in pollination. Since wasps generally don’t have fur like covering like bees, the pollen doesn’t stick to them.

Many wasps, including those in the Vespidae order attack and sting their prey – mostly insects and spiders – which they use as food for their larvae.

People are often stung in late summer when the wasp colonies stop breeding new workers. The remaining workers have to search for sugary foods like our beer and ice creams and therefore more likely to come into contact with humans.

Although painful, wasp stings are rarely dangerous.

What to do if you’ve been bitten or stung? Here is some advice from the NHS website:

To treat an insect bite or sting:

  • Remove the sting or tick if it’s still in the skin (see treating insect bites and stings for advice about how to do this safely).
  • Wash the affected area with soap and water.
  • Apply a cold compress (such as a flannel or cloth cooled with cold water) or an ice pack to any swelling for at least 10 minutes.
  • Raise or elevate the affected area if possible, as this can help reduce swelling.
  • Avoid scratching the area, to reduce the risk of infection.
  • Avoid traditional home remedies, such as vinegar and bicarbonate of soda, as they’re unlikely to help.

The pain, swelling and itchiness can sometimes last a few days. Ask your pharmacist about over-the-counter treatments that can help, such as painkillers, creams for itching and antihistamines.

 

wasp-538471_1280Are these beasts all bad?

Although they don’t really help with pollination and despite our perception that wasps are simply nasty little things that want our beer and sweet treats and will give us a damn good sting if we won’t let them have it. There are positives for us gardeners.

Biological pest controls

Some species of wasps are used as biological pest controls. Encarsia formosa is a species of wasp and a parasitoid of greenhouse whitefly and is used commercially for biological pest control.

Encasrsia formosa is available from many gardening suppliers. It is also available on Amazon: Encarsia for whitefly control: Full Course

How is your allotment or kitchen gardening coming along? I’d love to hear from you. I’m always grateful for any advice, tips and guidance. Drop me a comment below or connect with me on TwitterInstagram and Pinterest.

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16 thoughts on “What of the wasp?

  1. When you think about it, we gardeners are ungrateful sods! For a lot of the year wasps are helping to control garden pests, feeding all sorts of little critters to their young. It’s only later in the year that they themselves become a pest to us when they can no longer satisfy their sweet teeth on the secretions of their colonies of babies. Unless you’re unfortunate enough to have a nest nearby, they won’t be around in sufficient numbers to get dangerous and can easily be deterred by burning a citronella candle in the middle of your table or attracted elsewhere by a sacrificial blob of marmalade or honey. Just try to resist the temptation to swat at them – that makes them more likely to sting in self-defence.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We really are! The other issues I believe is that so many people don’t really see the difference between bees and wasps when they are buzzing quickly around us in the summer. Despite their nasty sting they are useful pest controllers. Let’s try and embrace them a little bit more. Although I do hate the little monsters when they ruin a perfectly good pint of beer!!

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      1. Have a look for some round plastic coasters (cos plastic’s washable). Use one to cover your beer glass when you’re not looking. Should be heavy enough not to blow away and light enough to fit in a pocket when visiting the pub (don’t use a pub coaster – probably riddled with bacteria you don’t want on the bit your mouth touches). If drinking from cans, a plastic beaker (supermarkets sell 6-packs) upside down on top of the can’s a good idea – stops something flying inside and then washing into your mouth when you take the next swig!

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  2. I think I once accidentally touched a wasp when picking blackberries (I didn’t see what stung me)… The sting was so shocking and intense… I actually felt the venom shoot up my arm and circulate in seconds around my body and my heart started pumping manically. I rushed quickly back inside as I wasn’t sure that reaction was normal, but by the time I’d got in the effect had subsided. I’m much more careful picking blackberries, but I don’t mind the odd wasp buzzing about. The secret is not to get in a flap. I think their sense of smell is pretty sharp.
    I’ve had a few wasps buzzing low around the beds this last week or so. They are definitely interested in the white butterfly caterpillars. I’ve netted my brassicas, but a few eggs usually get deposited through the nets and I get the odd muncher. But I think the wasps can smell them and hunt them out to eat them… I found that when I cut a caterpillar in half (sorry, that my caterpillar control!) a wasp can smell it and is along pretty quick to gobble it up.
    It’s wise to be cautious though… Some children near here were hospitalised a few weeks ago from an unprovoked attack of extra-vicious wasps in a country lane.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow that sounds like a scary experience Judy! I’m pleased to say I have never been stung and after your description I really hope I dont. I find myself feeling a little bit sorry for the things. Life of solitude and then left to starve when queen says their work is done.

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    2. Ouch! Sorry you reacted like that Judy. Next time you happen to be at your doctor’s place, it might be an idea to mention the reaction you had. Your doc may give you (or recommend) something to keep handy in case it happens again.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Yes, it was a bit scary… My only thought (apart from aggghhhhh!!!!) was to get to a telephone. I’ll mention it next time I’m at the doc’s, thanks John. It was 14 years ago, and ‘touch wood’ not happened since. (Might not have been a wasp, or course… Could have been a bee?)

        Liked by 1 person

  3. By the way, John, have you seen those glass jars/tankards with screw on lids? My daughter got one with a straw that sticks out the top… That could keep the blighters out! Not sure whether beer through a straw us acgoid idea though?!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. My son was stung 4 times the other day when he unknowingly was playing near a nest of yellow jackets. Three of those little turds even followed him into the house. They are vicious! Great post, though!

    Liked by 1 person

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