Peak wasp season

  • Posted on: 25 March 2020
  • By: MrWurster

It's peak wasp season.

I was saying to a friend one week ago…"It's funny…the figs are ripe and normally we have to fight the wasps for them. No wasps this year!" A day later the wasps arrived, as if on a bus, together. They stripped the figs, grapes, and leftover peaches, have taken over the backyard, and chase the dogs for their daily bone.

I really don't like wasps, and make a big effort to eradicate them from our place. Some nests i find just by noticing its a busy wasp hotspot. But I also use the "meat on a stick" approach....whack a star-picket into the ground on a high spot, tie a chunk of meat or a bone to it, then come back the next day. The wasps fly in, load up on meat, then fly off again directly to their nest. Do it once and you can work out the general direction of the wasp nest. Do it twice from a different spot and you can triangulate the nest location to within 5 metres. (If you pick a high spot you can sit below it and silhouette the wasps against the sky. Much easier to see them!)

My strategy is to mark the spot where the nest is when I find it in the daytime with something easily seen. A flowerpot or plastic bottle does the job. Then go back at night. At night they aren't as active, I have found, and you can approach the nest and powder them. I usually spray fly-spray into the entrance first, then dust. The fly-spray knocks them down instantly and the dust eventually kills them.

The dust kills them quite effectively, but….in most cases, two days later the nest comes back to life. My theory is the unhatched wasps emerge and take over, quickly rebuilding the nests' capabilities.

So far this year I've found five nests. (Worst year was 14.) All of them are along the river in the soft silted clay embankments. Two of them are in wombat burrows. They are hard to get to, as they are well inside the burrow and I have to reach in to get to the opening of their nest.

So for the last week I've been going late at night or pre-dawn, and giving each nest a spray and a dust. One of the wombat burrow nests has been quite difficult to kill. It's hard to get the spray into the entrance, and I have to get down on hands and knees to dust. The next day I go back and check the nest for activity. Usually its all quiet. I come back again the day after that, and the colony has started up again. They get another spray and dust and the cycle repeats. Sometimes it takes three goes to kill it off.

So, this problematic nest has been dusted now four times. I went back yesterday in the middle of the day to check it. I don't go too close, just close enough to see if there are wasps zooming in and out of their Deathstar residence. Middle of the day…lovely, warm, sunny autumn day. The sort of day a big snake comes out and warms itself up. As I approached the wasp nest the Tiger Snake woke up and in a flash took cover in its home… the same wombat burrow. I've been sticking my arm in there at night, and there's a bloody Tiger Snake in residence!

I went back pre-dawn today and changed the layout. I took two big tubs of sand and poured them into the entrance, blocking it. Except for the pipe I shoved in there first. Now the wasps have to come through the pipe to get in and out, and I can dust the pipe. The snake can stay if he wants, but he'll have to go through the pipe to get in and out.

But the other thing that has happened is the wasps have suddenly become aggressive. Last week I could stumble around in the dark and poison their nests. Today as I approached the other wombat-burrow wasp nest in the pre-dawn dark, wasps started emerging from the burrow and came straight at me, landed and stung.

After the bee-sting saga last year I think I am becoming more allergic to stings. My chest where I was stung has a disc of hard-set flesh about the size of a saucer. Its bright red and incredibly itchy and I won't be going near them again in a hurry.

So for them I set up a stinky-meat based water trap, and I'll try and drown as many as I can. I will wait a few weeks until it gets cold. They really hate the cold weather. Last year I had a big nest in a clump of blackberries with three entrances. It was impossible to get near it. But when it got cold I cut away the blackberries and cracked open a nest and sprayed it without any further incidents on a subzero morning.

But that's just our place. On either side my neighbours let their riverfront go. It’s a haven for rabbits, foxes, deer, blackberries and other weeds. And more wasps.