A MARKED increase in European wasp activity is keeping pest controllers occupied and locals on edge.
One local pest controller is reporting there are more wasp nests than usual, and says he is being kept busy finding and destroying nests.
Avon Pest Control’s Peter Hill said numbers were up on previous years, and he had been treating nests across the district.
“You have to find where they’re going,” he said.
“(We need to) locate the nest so we can treat them.”
While wasp traps can be useful, the only way to remove wasps is by destroying nests, as the queen will continue to produce eggs.
“They like flybait traps, they can’t fly out — put some cooked chicken in as bait,” Mr Hill suggested.
He said this did not help with destroying nests, but could help keep numbers down.
Mr Hill also urged people to stay away from nests.
“I’d recommend you keep well back, because if they think you’re attacking, they will sting you, then put a signal on you so the rest chase you,” he said.
“Some people have strong reactions, like bee stings, but wasps can sting multiple times.”
The Gippsland Times’ Facebook page has also been swarmed with comments, some noting wasps had attacked children and pets.
A Sale woman reported a young girl was stung four times on her forehead at a picnic.
Another reported their dog being stung, resulting in hives, a swollen face and a $290 veterinarian bill.
One woman concerned for her young family reported having a wasp nest in the roof or walls, saying her appeals to exterminators had proven fruitless, saying they were either too busy or did not return calls.
A Wurruk woman said she had emptied her fly trap twice, saying it was almost full to the top with wasps.
Wasp hotspots include Stratford, Newry, the Gippsland Plains Rail Trail and Sale Botanic Gardens.
The wasps are attracted to sweet food and meat, and may stick around until the weather gets colder.
Wellington Shire’s website includes several tips for minimising the impact of wasps, including removing fallen fruit and food scraps, covering food at picnics and barbecues, closing bins tightly, covering compost heaps and using pool covers and fly screens.
People should not drink directly from cans or bottles while outside, as wasps can hide inside then emerge into mouths, where any stings can cause fatal swelling in throats. Instead, they should use straws or glasses outside.
Wellington Shire Council is responsible for wasp nest removal on council land, and the environmental health team should be phoned on 1300 366 244 so nests can be investigated.
Nests found on Crown Land should be referred to the land owner or land manager, such as the Department of Land, Water, Environment and Planning.
If a nest is on private property, it is the owner’s responsibility, and there are several local pest exterminators that can be phoned.
It is recommended a professional is used, as wasps can be dangerous when agitated in large numbers, but home owners can also use commercial products from hardware or garden supply stores, as long as proper precautions are taken.
The Museum Victoria website explains that kerosene can also be used in underground nests, but should not be ignited under any circumstances.
Exposed nests should only be approached at night time, with red cellophane over a torch as wasps can’t see red light, and with a clear escape route available should the insects become agitated.