This week I killed the first European wasp queen that I have seen this spring. They have emerged from hibernation and will now be busily breeding.
If you have children, fruit, bees or pets (not sure about livestock) or are allergic to stings, these insects pose a significant threat.
Having, long ago trained my children to have healthy respect for snakes, spiders and native wasps, I have never regarded any of them as serious pests requiring eradication. European wasps are.
Last season I eradicated six nests along the west bank of the Numeralla, in the vicinity of the school, and more elsewhere. All contained (estimated) at least a couple of thousand wasps. Unlike bees etc European wasps may produce hundreds of queens in a single nest. These establish new nests in the following spring.
Finding the nests is the most time consuming part of eradicating them. If you see the worker wasps on your fruit, or in your drink can, they are feeding and gathering food for more workers. Once bitten by wasps the fruit quickly becomes useless. When they have as much as they can carry they will eventually fly off in a straight line to the nest. If they fly in more than one direction, there are a number of nests around you. They take a long time to gather enough food, so much patience is required.
If they are in the dog or cat bowl or gathering meat from another source, they are feeding queens. This is much faster to observe because they quickly tear a strip off and fly directly to the nest. Their flight is slower because of the load being carried. I put out a small piece of meat and observe their flight direction, then all I need to know is how far is the nest. In most cases this will require movement of the bait along the flight path to where the wasp disappeared. Eventually you may see the wasps at the nest but are more likely to hear them first. All that I have found locally have been holes in the ground, sometimes hidden under tussocks. For further information Google: European wasps in Australia.
It is inadvisable to approach to closely or to attempt eradication during daylight, particularly if you intend to sprinkle the recommended ant & roach dust around the nest entrance, however do look for multiple entrances. Mark all nest entrances clearly at a distance of about 2 metres, depending on how active they are. I use 1.2 metre lengths of heavy wire with a bit of flagging tape and align two, sometimes three so that there is no mistake about where they are in the dark.
Wait until it is well and truly dark! A new moon is preferable or a cloudy night. Wasps sometimes are still returning to the nest well after sunset and are likely to get you from behind. Cover up! Wear loose dark clothes, a hat and preferably a bee net over your head, particularly your face. Cover your torch or lantern with a red filter or red cellophane as they do not see it and head for the light. Make sure you treat them effectively the first time, because they may be very aggressive on further attempts.
I am prepared to help out in eradication if you are not experienced in this sort of operation, but I do not have time to locate nests all over the valley.
If you want help or advice you can contact me on 64533009 or email: M_Shubert@hotmail.com