ACT News

License article

Wasp menace growing

CANBERRA’S southside residents are more likely to be stung by a European wasp than their northside neighbours. A map of wasp nests across the ACT and Queanbeyan shows the large suburb of Kambah had the most counted this year (29) followed by Ainslie (18).
The map shows money cannot buy a person solace from the dangerous insect.
A pocket of wasp nests is hunkered down in the opulent inner south with Yarralumla (10), Hughes (10), Red Hill (six), Narrabundah (four) and Kingston (three) all recording their share of the flying pests.
Today the Sunday Canberra Times publishes a detailed online map of where European Wasp nests have been recorded throughout the ACT in the past six years.
While they had been known to kill animals as large as dogs and horses, there were no recorded human deaths from European wasp stings in Australia, according to Philip Spradbery, the head of the ACT’s European Wasp Awareness and Insect Identification Services pictured holding a nest which weighed five kilograms when collected.
He said the wasps were also moving into the new suburbs as  people moved in.
‘‘The typical suburban garden provides everything the European wasp desires,’’ said Dr Spradbery, who is usually stung about five times a year.
 ‘‘They’re very widespread throughout Canberra now.’’
Gardens often contain pet food as well as old fence timber or other wood which they use to make the paper for their nests.
The number of nests recorded has doubled from 300 to 600 in the space of six years.
About 400 of the nests counted in the past 12 months were in the ground. All 600 of the nests uncovered were destroyed.  
At the end of this month the queen wasps will emerge from hibernation to start building their nests. By mid-October the first of their offspring will be seen doing all the work for the matriarch who will stay inside the nest.
‘‘One wasp nest or colony during a single 12 month season can collect up to 100 kilograms of insect prey to feed the growing larvae – a grub-like brood,’’ he said.
‘‘That’s an awful lot of insects – 3.5 million big blowflies or many more if they collect smaller or lighter insects – and one reason why they are such an ecological disaster when they become established in new localities.’’
Sightings will increase from now until February, when numbers will peak and then decline again.
Horses in the Snowy Mountains have been killed by the wasps after trampling on their nests.
Anybody stung by a wasp should apply an ice pack and if there is any difficultly breathing should go to hospital.