Tuesday 12 November 2019

If you kill a wasp, it will warn the others . . .

...and other things you should know about the flying insect we love to hate. By Ed Power

Nothing takes the gloss off these precious last sunny days quite like a deluge of wasps. This year, they seem particularly ubiquitous.

Wasps are not aggressive on purpose. In fact, they're not really aggressive at all. Forced out of their nests by hunger, they're on a desperate search for food. When they hover in your personal space, they're just looking for dinner.

Killing a wasp doesn't help. A dying wasp emits a chemical that tells other wasps to be on the look-out. So, the more you swat, the more bellicose the rest become.

"In truth we hardly notice wasps throughout most of their life cycle," says Calvin Jones, of Ireland's Wildlife (irelandswildlife.com). "It's only during this window of a few weeks in early autumn they can be a bit of a nuisance."

Here are 10 other wasp facts that you should keep in mind.

1 They'll all be gone soon

"Nearly all wasps die when the weather cools in autumn, but they don't really come out to die," says Jones. "They come out to feed."

2 They are a bit bored

This time is the beginning of the end for wasp colonies. Queens are no longer laying eggs, and larvae do not require feeding.

That leaves the 10,000 or so insects that make up the average colony at a loose end.

3 They aren't looking for a fight – but they'll take you on if they have to

"They are more inclined to use their sting as a means of defence," says Jones. "When people swat at them they often react aggressively to defend themselves."

4 They come in many sizes

There are an estimated 25,000 species of wasp. The largest – the Tarantula Hawk – wasp has a wingspan of five inches.

5 Wasps can kill

Globally wasps account for a greater number of fatalities than any other venomous animal.

6 ...But you'll probably be ok

"While painful, wasp stings are only really an issue for a small minority of people who have a severe allergic response," says Calvin Jones.

7 If you ARE stung, be careful

Don't pinch the stinger as that can inject more venom. Use a tweezers to lift it out.

8 Killing wasps can be counter productive

If you kill one, it will warn the rest of its colony to be on the alert. A dying wasp will release chemical signals that tell others in the vicinity to be on the defensive.

9 When a wasp lands on you, don't make any sudden moves

"Try not to move suddenly or do anything that could seem threatening. Wasps usually leave of their own accord once they realise there's nothing to eat," says Jones.

10 If you stumble upon a wasp's nest in your garden, step slowly away

Says Jones: "You should give it a wide berth and let the wasps get on with things. Don't try to remove it – doing so will result in a cloud of around 10,000 angry wasps looking to sting anything in the vicinity."

Irish Independent

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