France has declared 2022 ‘l’année de la guêpe’ (‘The Year of the Wasp’). An unusually warm winter and spring means French pest controllers are dealing with a 140% increase in wasp nests.
Jersey is facing its own Year of the Wasp, as worker wasps stop feeding their colonies’ larvae and swarm to find a new sugar fix among our picnics and drinks.
An increase in wasp numbers is potentially serious news. As more wasps come into contact with us, more people will be stung. In turn, this increases the chances of some of them suffering severe allergic reactions or even anaphylactic shock.
The leading Covid-19 testing expert, Dr Quinton Fivelman PhD, Chief Scientific Officer at London Medical Laboratory, says: ‘France is Britain’s nearest Continental neighbour and both countries have enjoyed record temperatures at New Year and the fifth mildest spring on record. That means more queen wasps survived the winter and conditions will have been perfect for establishing their nests this spring.
‘For most of us, a wasp sting is painful but not fatal. However, an increasing number of UK adults, around 21.3 million, now suffer from at least one allergy. That could mean they develop a severe allergic reaction to wasp venom, termed ‘anaphylactic shock’. This is a serious, potentially fatal, medical condition that can be discovered through allergy testing.
‘Worker wasps spend the early summer hunting insects to feed their growing colonies’ larvae. In return for this, the larvae give them a carbohydrate-rich sugary secretion. But by August most of the larvae have pupated, and the worker wasps have to get their sugar fix elsewhere. That’s when they become a problem as they swarm to our jam sandwiches and beers.
‘The best way to reduce your chances of being stung:
*Don’t swat. Swiping at wasps makes them more likely to attack. Stay as still as possible, they usually fly away.
*Cover your drinks, especially sugary colas and beers.
*Avoid bright clothing and perfumes. Wasps respond to bright colours and use scent to communicate. They may react aggressively to perfume.
‘If you are stung, don’t panic. You may want to cleanse the area with soap and water to avoid infection. To reduce the swelling, you can take an anti-inflammatory medicine like ibuprofen. If the sting is itching painfully, apply an antihistamine, corticosteroid or calamine cream on the site of the sting. If you prefer home remedies, try lemons. Unlike bee stings, which are acidic, wasp stings are alkaline. So don’t use baking soda, that’s for bee venom. Instead, use lemon or fresh lemon juice. Cut a lemon in half and press its flesh down on the sting.’
A further tip: rather than putting a small spoonful of ham and waiting for wasps to go into and then drown in the jar, use a slice of lemon instead. Wasps don’t like the smell, so they fly away from it.