Wasps in town — but who will take responsibility?

Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
A rural Southland town has been besieged by a winged menace, with some locals fearing what it may take for authorities to get the flying beasties under control.

Wasps have always had a presence throughout the region, though warm weather has encouraged population growth and now a large number of nests have been established around Otautau and throughout Southland.

Southland Bee Society president Geoff Scott said Southland District Council owned land around the town which was "pretty much a breeding ground for the wasps".

"It has been for a long time, but the fact is that the council won’t pay to have the nests removed, which I think’s quite sucky.

"When you’ve got Queenstown and Arrowtown — if you ring the council up they’ll actually pay someone to go out and remove the nest for you," he said.

"For instance, if you get stung by a wasp and you’re allergic, who’s responsible?"

Residents of the town had pitched in to employ Mr Scott in destroying some of the nests, though many remained on council land and privately owned property.

Otautau Food Centre owner Paige Fox said even though her business was on the opposite side of town to the nests, they were constantly having to clean the dead insects from their store, and her husband had been stung the previous week while working.

Resident Neroli Molloy said the situation was unbelievable.

"They’re flying into the shops ... They come in here in the office and the workshop, [and near] Holt Park you just can’t even sit outside they are that bad. They just dive bomb you."

She said the influx of wasps had her worried for her one-year-old grandson when he comes to visit, as it posed a danger to sit with him outside.

There was some confusion as to who was responsible.

Ms Molloy said she had spoken to Southland District Council who said it was not an issue for the council, though when she spoke to Environment Southland (ES) she was given Mr Scott’s number.

"At some stage somebody is going to get stung quite badly and have a serious reaction or something like that.

"And the council can’t tell me that they don’t know about it, because they bloody well do," Ms Molloy said.

ES biosecurity team leader for animals Dave Burgess said that under the Southland regional pest management plan 2019-2029, wasps were not classed as a pest, therefore Environment Southland did not provide a control service.

"We have received four inquires regarding wasps this year.

"Our advice is if people can not manage wasps using commercial products they should contact a pest control contractor from the Yellow Pages, or beekeepers as an option for bee swarm, or potential wasp nest removal."

Southland Mayor Rob Scott said while he was not sure who should be footing the bill, the wasp situation was now a known problem with a known solution.

"I’m not going to be one to say it’s not our problem and get someone else to do it.

"At the very least, I’m going to co-ordinate a solution because as [Mr Scott] pointed out, there’s quite a serious problem that needs to be addressed.

"They’re a nasty little critter."