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Dublin: 10°C Thursday 21 October 2021

Have we reached 'peak wasp'? Here's what to do if the flying pests are wrecking your buzz

Bright clothes, shampoo and ice cream are all contributing factors, Billy Flynn from the Irish Wildlife Trust says.

Image: Shutterstock/Jimmy R

IRELAND IS WELL into the summer, which means most people have probably seen wasps flying about outside. 

There have been some anecdotal reports from people around Ireland in recent weeks of there being a large amount of wasps flying around. 

Numerous people on social media claimed they saw large amounts of wasps at the All Together Now festival in Waterford last weekend.

The Belfast Telegraph also reported this week that a woman suffered more than 20 stings all over her body after disturbing a wasp nest on grassland.

So, TheJournal.ie has spoken to Billy Flynn from the Irish Wildlife Trust to find out if there actually are more wasps around this summer, and why they’re so attracted to humans at this time of the year. 

“Anecdotal is the correct word to use. Nobody knows, there aren’t people out there counting,” Flynn said. 

“You must have people right the way around the country verifying these stories. To be frank, nobody is doing this,” he said. 

Flynn explained that there are just two species of wasps that people notice the most in Ireland – the common wasp and the German wasp. 

These are both social wasps, he said, and the worker wasps spend the first part of their lives ensuring the larvae back in the nest are fed. Once the larvae hatch in the nest, they no longer need to be fed by the workers. This typically happens in the summer months. 

Once the worker wasps no longer have to feed their young, “they are free to do their own thing” and “indulge their love for nectar”, which is a sugary substance found in flowers.

Flynn also noted that people come in contact with wasps a lot at this time of the year because we tend to spend more time outside. 

He added that wearing bright colours, which people often do during the summer, attracts wasps. 

In August, we go outside, we don’t wear typically dark clothing. It’s the time we wear bright clothing, children especially. 

“Very often, we’re also holding ice creams, fizzy drinks, beer or wine, all of which contain sugar, all of which they can smell,” he said. 

Flynn also pointed out that washing your hair with shampoos that have floral scents may attract wasps. 

“They see these little triggers and say ‘oh here is nectar to be had’,” he said. 

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So, how you avoid being bothered by wasps? 

Well, Flynn said that people should let the wasps “discover that you are not actually the great source of sugar they thought”, unless you’re holding sugary food, that is. 

“In that case, what I have done before is give them a little bit [of ice cream] because you’ve far more ice cream than the wasp will ever want,” Flynn said.

He added that it is important not to alarm the wasps by waving your arms around in the air. 

“[That] tells us that someone is wrong and that they might be under attack. That is when they will attack,” Flynn said, adding that wasps aren’t actually aggressive creatures.

They’re not stupid, you don’t get to be a successful insect that’s been around for so many thousands of years without being good at what you do. 

It’s worth pointing out that there are also a number of measures people can take to try prevent wasps from entering their homes. 

Pest controllers Rentokil have a number of such recommendations: 

  • Check for nests - Check your home and garden in early spring for nests, early on they will be walnut or golf ball in size – early small nests have fewer wasps and are easier to treat quickly. Look for nests in lofts, garages, sheds, cavity walls or under eaves.
  • Secure bins - Ensure outside bins have tightly fitting lids. Keep bins at a distance from doors and windows so wasps are not attracted to the contents.
  • Keep windows and doors shut - To prevent wasps entering inside your home.
  • Keep safe - If you have spotted a nest, make sure you keep children and pets away from the area.

Finally, we can expect the numbers of wasps around the country to begin to drop next month as most can’t survive colder weather. 

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