Residents are being urged to be on their guard to avoid a stinging start to summer.
After a very mild winter, bugs and insects are already on the move with wasps emerging in ever increasing numbers, sparking a major warning from concerned officials.
Waikato Regional Council is urging people to look out for wasps and to use safe ways to tackle them if they establish nests on private properties.
Wasps were prevalent throughout the Waikato last summer. For people with allergies, wasp stings can be potentially fatal. And, besides being a threat to people and pets, wasps deprive native birds of food and are believed to cost primary industries, mainly beekeepers, at least $10 million a year.
“Some say the wasp problem in New Zealand is the worst in the world,” says biosecurity officer Chris Monk.
“They have an abundance of food here and no real natural competitors and predators.”
PestCo Technician Mike Wills, currently operating in Auckland, the Waikato and Tauranga, said people giving their garden a spring tidy were often at risk of a close encounter with wasps.
“You might be trimming the hedge or pruning a border along the driveway and you accidently disturb a wasp nest.
“Before you know it you can get stung several times. The German wasp can be quite aggressive and there might be hundreds of wasps in one nest. The sting can be really painful.”
Mike urges caution and says dealing with a wasp nest is best left to the experts and residents should call in PestCo.
“There’s no point in taking any chances as some people react very badly to a sting.”
To keep wasp numbers under control, Waikato’s regional pest management plan requires landowners to control a variety of wasps on their property if a complaint is received.
Australian and Asian paper wasps are thin with long dangly legs and make small “honey combed” style nests on vegetation and around the house, while the German and common wasps are short and stocky with yellow and black colourations and most commonly nest in the ground.
“Wasps will most often search for food near their nest, so if you can kill all the nests within 200 metres of a problem area you should significantly reduce their numbers,” says Chris.
“We advise carrying out wasp control at night – or twilight on cool days – when they are generally inactive.”
Paper wasps can be dealt with by spraying with household fly spray. The nest can then be removed by snipping it off into a bag, sealing it up and then either burning it or placing it into the rubbish.
Nests for the German and common wasps can be difficult to locate and are more tricky to get rid of.
The council contributes funding to a biological control programme run by Landcare Research looking for effective biological control agents for German and common wasps. The aim is to provide long terms solutions to the nation’s wasp issues.
Chris stresses that people allergic to wasps or unsure of controlling them should avoid trying to destroy nests themselves and seek professional help.
Asian paper wasp and (right) the common wasp.
Native to Europe and northern Africa. It was first found at an air force base near Hamilton in 1945, and it has been suggested that hibernating queens arrived in New Zealand in crates of aircraft parts from Europe after the Second World War.
Although considerable efforts were made to eradicate nests, German wasps spread very quickly, and within a few years were found in most of the North Island and parts of the upper South Island.
Native to Europe and parts of Asia. This species has also become introduced in Australia and, most recently, Argentina. Single specimens of the common wasp were recorded in New Zealand in 1921 and 1945 but these apparently did not establish.
The common wasp was confirmed as established in Dunedin in 1983, although, examination of museum specimens showed that queens had been collected from Wellington as early as 1978. It rapidly spread throughout New Zealand and almost completely displaced the German wasp from beech forests in the upper South Island because of its superior competitiveness.
In general, wasp populations are large in New Zealand because of the mild climate, lack of natural enemies, and very abundant food sources (especially honeydew).
The German and common wasp are now widespread throughout New Zealand. In some habitats, they can be some of the most common insects encountered. As a result, wasps have had detrimental impacts on native ecosystems, and human health, cause economic losses for beekeepers, and disrupt recreational activities.
Paper wasps (Asian & Australian)
Paper wasps have a simple social structure, with only females and males, all help with food gathering, nest building, and producing and rearing young.
Paper wasps are longer and more slender than common and German wasps. Also, unlike common and German wasps, when paper wasps fly they do not hold their legs close to their body. Seeing a wasp flying with “long dangly legs” identifies it as a paper wasp.
It has a honeycomb nest, made out of wood chewed and moulded by the wasps. Small, usually less than 20cm in diameter. Cells are in a single layer
Nests hang from small shrubs and trees, fences and walls and often under the eaves of houses.