Wasps are a problem many people have to deal with, and they do so in different ways. Here is a tale of a failed DIY wasp control project from our friend Alexander Crawley, and what he learned from his failed endeavor. Alexander is an entomology enthusiast and consultant at Fantastic Pest Control. Outside of studying bugs, he enjoys watching movies, reading, and occasional long walks in nature. Enjoy!
It was a Sunday. And doing justice to its name it was the kind of bright, hot day you’d expect in the dead of summer, made much worse by the fact I’d spent the last two months in an autumn-winter transition in a land where the sun doesn’t shine. Everything they say about London weather is (mostly) true. That was the first (and hopefully last) time I had visited the overseas office.
After I got home, I did what I usually do every time after coming back from a trip – a bed bug inspection. I checked my luggage and threw my clothes in the washing machine while inspecting the suitcase. Since I had also inspected the bed before leaving, I was fairly confident there were no bed bugs. I could finally relax.
“Crack open a cold on the porch – that’s what I need”, I thought to myself. After a quick supply run, I was ready to kick back and relax. I got out through the back door and I was immediately greeted by the heavenly scent of lavender. You never realize how much you miss certain things until you spend some time in the UK. And then it certainly hit me – lavender! It would be attracting all types of insects. Hymenoptera are suckers for lavender.
The thoughts enter my mind in less than a second. When you’re experienced enough in a field, these processes are near unconscious. I turned my head to the lavender and sure enough, I spotted a myriad of buzzing insects around. “No biggie – most species of wasps and bees in Australia are solitary, so everything is fine.” I high-fived myself in my mind for being so clever and proceeded to sit down in my comfy chair.
I wish I could finish the story here. I wish I could tell you there weren’t suddenly lots of wasps flying around on my porch. I wish I could tell you that I didn’t notice a wasp nest located to the right of my backyard door. However, that would be a blatant lie.
I immediately jumped from my chair and cursed my pest-free living in the UK. That was one of the benefits of consulting for a pest control company – the apartment was pest-proofed and I know how to handle maintenance, so I got sloppy. “No matter”, I said to myself as I came to my senses. “I’ll have to deal with this now. There will be plenty of time for rest later.”
First, I looked at the nest. European wasps. Fantastic! European wasps are a social wasp species that are not native to Australia. Social wasp means they have a traditional social structure and roles – a queen, workers, and drones (males whose only purpose is to inseminate the queen). All of which is a fancy way of saying they all live together and construct a big nest.
Solitary species are much easier to deal with. There, every female is fertile and once inseminated, she constructs her own nest, lays her eggs and in many species flies off into the sunset after leaving supplies for the larvae to feed on when they hatch (that can also mean live prey, such as spiders in some species). But this was not a solitary species so I needed to act fast.
I got back inside and equipped myself to the best of my abilities (a zombie mask – a gift from my friends when I had literally worked myself into zombie mode a year prior; two long sleeve shirts – perfect for that hot summer weather; gloves; long sleeve jeans; and a hat). I probably looked like the most insane burglar ever (in retrospect, my neighbors were quite unobservant not to call the cops on me).
I examined the nest. It wasn’t that big, but I didn’t really have much in this get up as I was sweating like crazy. Or maybe I was melting – couldn’t be sure. When I looked around, I noticed the remnants of another nest (failed project, probably toppled over by the wind) which was empty. This gave me an idea – make a false nest and see how they react.
Few studies have been conducted on wasps’ territorial behavior, but there have been such claims. This gave me an idea to try and study their behavior when another wasp nest was introduced to their environment.
Excited, I picked up the parts of the other nest they’d started and got back inside so I could get undressed finally. I immediately started expanding on their “prototype”. I couldn’t use the same technique they use, but I still cut and folded small lines around it for it to expand. I glued the whole thing together with normal paper glue I found in one of the cabinets (I don’t even remember how it got there).
The end result was pretty impressive and I’m pretty sure to a layperson it would look like an actual wasp nest. All I had to do was to hang it close by and then see what happens.
After I hung the fake wasp nest, I got back inside. My dream of having a cold one in my second favorite chair was taken away by the multiple buzzing sounds and flying insects.
One week passed. I intentionally didn’t want to see what would happen before I gave it some time so at the end of the week I was really excited. Until I looked outside and saw that nothing had changed. The wasps had completely ignored my carefully crafted fake nest. That solution to the problem definitely didn’t work for me.
The next logical thing I could do was move the real nest closer to their so coveted lavender so that they would at least not infest my porch. I geared up again and moved the nest in the evening. Do not try this at home as there are risks! Only attempt this if you absolutely know what you’re doing.
Nowadays, there are a number of fake nests you can purchase online for a few dollars. People report varying degrees of efficiency. They worked for some people, while the fake nests were infested themselves for others. There is a myriad of factors you can’t control for when attempting something like this. The only way to be truly certain is to try it yourself. Like many other things in life.