Wasps and wasps' nests

by Lila Das Gupta

I was blissfully unaware of wasps' nests till one summer at the allotment, when I got stung on my bottom ...

Wasp - photo taken by Richard JonesOver the next few weeks, you may find a large wasp on the plot, which will turn out to be a queen. Having overwintered, queen wasps look for a place to start a brood, and may well decide that your shed (or in my case, compost heap), would make a desirable residence.

The queen starts off by chewing up bits of wood to form a small, round paper nest. In it, she initially lays a small number of eggs, which become grubs and then wasp workers that help to feed more grubs the queen produces over the summer.

I was blissfully unaware of wasps' nests till one summer at the allotment, when I got stung on my bottom (oh the indignity of it all!). On my next visit to the plot I was stung again and on the following visit I received two further stings. It was only then that I realised the wasps were coming from the bottom of one of the compost heaps.

I telephoned the allotments officer at the local council who advised me not to put a sign on the heap saying "Danger Wasps Nest." I was concerned other people might be stung, but I was told that either I or the allotment society could be liable if I put up a sign, so this was not an advisable course of action.

I know that wasps are beneficial for gardeners: not only are they important for the whole ecosystem, but they eat garden pests, such as caterpillars and insects. My problem was that I suddenly didn't want to go anywhere near my beloved compost heaps.

Feeling despondent, I asked my friend on the plot if she had any advice to give me. "I know it sounds strange" she said, "but you might have heard that some people talk to the bees. Why don't you try talking to the wasps?"

Suppressing the urge to be flippant as best I could I asked her: "what should I tell the wasps?"

"Just tell them that you will leave them alone if they leave you alone." So, off I toddled and told them exactly that. I wouldn't be turning the pile, I would cover it and leave it till the winter. In return I expected a truce and no more stings.

The wasps and I both stuck to our side of the bargain, and - since wasps don't tend to nest in the same place more than once - I wasn't bothered by them again.

It's interesting to note that the previous year I had planted the herb Angelica archangelica on the allotment, for no other reason that it is statuesque and very pretty. I read in a book of gardening folklore that angelica attracts queen wasps. The moral of the tale here: be careful who you invite to the plot.

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Gardeners' World Web User 05/03/2010 at 19:25

wasps i wouldnt go on my plot for a year only insect im scared of,wonder if you can help me with my situation new plot this year getting turned over tomorrow but the houses at the bottom of my plot have higher soil 4foot to be precise and ive noticed 5 holes the foxe dens im a animal lover so dont want to scare them off and allotment rules state not to purposely do anything to cause them nusance or harm ,i want chickens how can i protect them

Gardeners' World Web User 07/03/2010 at 22:32

Michael, they don't call foxes wiley for nothing. If you love animals then I think you will end up heart-broken because sooner or later the foxes will get to your beloved chickens. It's bad enough when the foxes are at the end of your garden - on an allotment you have fewer chances of protecting them. Sorry to sound negative but I've heard so many tales from upset chicken keepers... Anyone out there successfully keeping chickens on an allotment?

Gardeners' World Web User 09/03/2010 at 10:44

how do i get rid of a wasps nest humanely?

Gardeners' World Web User 09/03/2010 at 10:47

Yes your right bees can hear you, my advise to you is watch the Bee Movie. You might make a knew little friend.

Gardeners' World Web User 09/03/2010 at 10:48

Just tell them to Buzz Off!!!!!

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