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.
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.
Solitary 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.
Are 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
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 Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.