Wasp alert

by Richard Jones

2007 will be remembered as a very good year for wasps. But before people start complaining about their vicious stings and bad tempers, I must point out that wasps are actually our friends.

2007 will be remembered as a very good year for wasps. But before people start complaining about their vicious stings and bad tempers, I must point out that wasps are actually our friends. After birds and spiders, they are the most important insect predators in the garden and they attack all manner of real pests including caterpillars, aphids and flies. They feed the chewed remains to their grubs back at the nest. The last five years have been really bad for wasps; either the hibernating queens have suffered from moisture and mould during the winter or their newly-founded embryo nests have fallen foul of bad weather at the key stage of development in April and May.

WaspThere are definitely more wasps about this year so it was no surprise when an allotment neighbour warned us that she had just discovered an active nest under a breeze block at the corner of her plot. There were scores of workers buzzing in and out. Unfortunately it is rather close to her 'rest' area, the small grassy corner of every allotment where the weary plot holder settles down to munch the odd sandwich, down the occasional flask of tea, or (this is Dulwich after all), share a couple of bottles of wine with visitors. Whether or not she calls in the pest control people or relocates to the other end of the site will depend exactly on how she views these misunderstood and much-maligned insects. As well as the hornet there are eight species of black and yellow social wasp in Britain. The two most often seen are the common wasp, Vespula vulgaris, and the 'German' wasp, Vespula germanica. There's a simple ID guide at BBC Wildlife.

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Gardeners' World Web User 01/01/2007 at 00:00

We had a prolific amount of newly emerged queen wasps last year. So much so that it was a worry, to say the least. We keep honey bees and wasps have been known to be a pest, to the bees and their hives, in one way and another. However, being aware that they are extremely efficient hunters of garden pests we just kept an eye on the situation and made ourselves aware of any wasp bikes we could find. Later on in the season, when the wasps start becoming a nuisance, and become aggressive, we tend to become less complacent then and actively seek them out - or should I say they actively seek us out? I am a keen organic gardener and try to plant for a good ecosystem but even the wasps have their day.

Gardeners' World Web User 15/08/2007 at 11:50

Thank you for this information. My friends and I had been talking about wasps and what use they might have. I had no idea that they ate garden pests so I shall share this info with said friends and won't view wasps in the negative way that I had before. I thought that there must be a reason for them, as the majority of things have a positive reason for being there.

Gardeners' World Web User 15/08/2007 at 22:14

I live in Cornwall & as yet I haven't seen any wasps this year, in fact we have only just seen the first hoverflies & butterflies in any number this last 2-3 weeks. My purple sprouting has done really well so far because of it, but they seem to be out in full force now but still no wasps.

Gardeners' World Web User 18/09/2007 at 21:14

I agree with Elaine T. I too live in Cornwall and no wasps my plot either.

Gardeners' World Web User 24/09/2007 at 20:06

i am a new gardener and as a mother to three boys i try to be enviromentally friendly, so when we grew our first cabbages last year and the butterflies used them as a nursery, i didn't mind too much as there was enough to share. im not sure that my neighbours felt the same though. i saw for the first time ever a wasp carry off a caterpillar. i couldn't believe my eyes. such a tiny creatcher , he wobbled a bit like a novice pilot but managed, anyway they must like our garden as we have had a few nests being built. they really are lovely and their nests are beautiful.

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