Hot summer wasp overload: Experts unravel myths around the hated flying stingers

Hot summer wasp overload: Experts unravel myths around the hated flying stingers
From CBC - August 12, 2017

You may have noticed.

High temperatures and sustained warm weather have led to an increased wasp population but understanding the sometimes aggressive little stingers can reduce the chance of being stung, experts say.

"If it is warm, they grow more quickly. If they can grow more quickly, they go through their generations more rapidly, you get more wasps being produced in a given nest and therefore you have more wasps out hunting about," Ken Fry told CBC News on Friday.

He's an animal science instructor at Olds College.

While there are 14 known species of wasps in Western Canada, yellow jackets are the most common. Western Canada does not have any hornets, which are much larger and come with more painful stings, Frysaid.

"There's a group of wasps, Dolichovespula, that build their nests in trees, under the eaves. They are called aerial nesters because their nests are above ground. They typically prefer fresh food, they are actively hunting living caterpillars, beetle grubs, fly maggots, any insect of any sort. That's what they feed their young," he explained.

Wasps differ from bees in terms of diet and aggression.

"Honey bees and bumblebees feed their young a combination of nectar and pollen, whereas the yellow jackets, they will feed their young meat, so captured insects," he said.

Fry says bumblebees generally are docile because they have smaller nests and therefore are less aggressive because "every worker they lose is a significant loss to that small nest size."

Wasps do not suffer from the same cautious approach to interacting with humans.

"Yellow jackets, having nests in the hundreds and potentially thousands of individuals, they do not have that much reluctance. Because they are naturally predators, they are more inclined to fight at a lesser level of provocation."

The contribution wasps make to the world around them, however, is largely misunderstood.

"For the most part they are helping to maintain a reasonable level of insect population in our ecosystems," Fry said.

"Without the predators we would be up to our ears in bugs. Our plants would be fully stripped because there would be no population control as it were. They do a great job of managing insects out in the wild and in our yards. It's just unfortunate that, in their hunting forays, they could encounter us."

And it's those increased encounters that have a Calgary pest control company buzzing with business.

"Each of our technicians is taking care of at least 10 wasp nests a day," said Nicholas Holland, owner of Peregrine General Pest Control Inc.


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