Breeze through wasp season

This buzzing insect is our friend

Before taking your rage out on all the wasps buzzing about, it’s important to understand why this useful insect is so in-your-face this time of year.

“The wasps are beneficial. They’re getting rid of some of the flies and other pests in your yard,” Robert Currie, an entomologist professor at the University of Manitoba, says. 

Although they don’t carry pollen back to their nests like bees, wasps are also pollinators. He doesn’t recommend people destroy nests, killing entire wasp colonies, unless it’s necessary.

For example, if the nest is right above a door that often slams and disturbs the wasps, removing it is likely the only solution to avoid getting stung.

In all other circumstances, humans can change their own behaviours to stay safe.

“The important thing to remember is they’re usually just exploring,” Currie says.

As natural food sources, such as pollen and insects, start to disappear, wasps become more obvious, because they’re more attracted to human food than they are earlier in the season, Ken Nawolsky, the City of Winnipeg Superintendent of Insect Control, says.

He recommends people eating outdoors cover their food and drinks when they’re not consuming them and keep garbage away from where they’re sitting.

“(If you put) a sugary water solution near where you sit, they’ll go to that instead of annoying you,” Nawolsky says.

While it’s mostly about avoiding them, that’s not always possible. In that case, ignoring wasps is the best course of action.

“The most important thing is try to not swat them. Yes, they tend to be aggressive at this time of year,” Nawolsky says, “but if you swat them, or try to swat them, they’ll want to fight back.”

Currie recommends lightly brushing wasps away instead.

Nawolsky says the City of Winnipeg will treat nests on public property when they are reported and recommends people treat nests on their own property at night when wasps are inside their nests.

This year, the number of calls about nests is lower than usual, and, so far, the city has removed less nests than last year.

But there are still more wasps than there were a few weeks ago, because their population grows over the summer. This time of year is when they’re at their peak population, Currie says.

He doesn’t see this as a problem, as long as people take precautions and stay away from nests, as the wasps inside are set off by vibrations from nearby movement.

Outside of the nest is a different story.

ZWasps, however, can get confused about the difference between edible foliage and decorated humans.

“If wasps are flying around you, they normally are attracted to the colour of your clothing, perfume. Wear things that don’t look or smell like flowers,” Currie says.

Getting through wasp season without a sting should be a breeze if you follow these tips. And, if you can’t curb your frustration, just remember all the good they’re doing for the ecosystem as pest slayers and pollinators.

Published in Volume 71, Number 3 of The Uniter (September 22, 2016)

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