Wasps on the attack this autumn


Barry Austin from the Mt Somers Walkway Society controls wasps along walkways in the Mt Somers...
Barry Austin from the Mt Somers Walkway Society controls wasps along walkways in the Mt Somers area. Photo: Supplied
Wasps have been active in the beech forests of Mt Somers this autumn, even launching themselves upon a school group in one incident.

The Ashburton Courier understands a school trip to the area last month quickly turned into a nightmare when many children, teachers and parents were bombarded by a swarm of angry wasps near Woolshed Creek Hut.

Multiple people were stung.

The school did not wish to comment. However, the Department of Conservation confirmed the incident.

Geraldine senior ranger heritage and visitors Murray Thomas also understood a number of stings had occurred.

‘‘Since then, we have gone out and poisoned any nests we could find in the area,’’ Thomas said.

Wasp numbers in the area were weather dependent.

‘‘With higher numbers during warm, dry summers like this one,’’ he said.

It was currently not feasible to eradicate wasps from the area, however, the insects were controlled.

An ongoing programme led by the Mt Somers Walkway Society involved using the bait Vespex to kill them, Thomas said.

‘‘Vespex is used seasonally when the wasps are feeding on protein, which is typically in late summer.’’

Society member Barry Austin is the Department of Conservation’s go-to man for nuisance wasp issues.

Whenever a wasp nest is located with a potential threat to humans, people can notify the department, which then in turn contacts Austin if the nest is around walkways in the Mt Somers area.

Austin is one of two members on the society to have a license to use Vespex.

Austin said in the five years he has been dealing with wasps he was yet to be stung. He has destroyed about 35 nests in that time, including the one suspected of hosting the wasps involved in the school party stinging incident.

Austin said the trick was to apply the poison through a puffer device, slowly and patiently into a nest with a steady hand, making sure the wasps were not disturbed.

“Wasps get agitated through vibrations, and if there is a nest close to a track, you can imagine what can happen,” Austin said.

He said this year had not been overly busy with wasp outbreaks.

“You need quite a spell of warm weather for the wasp numbers to build. We haven’t had too many demanding periods this year as there has been the odd shower here and there,” Austin said.

Although Austin generally only covers the Mt Somers tracks, word has got out about his special skills and he has received many phone calls from people in Ashburton and Tinwald, asking for advice.

Austin recommends using No Wasps for small problems with one or two wasps, which can be purchased from hardware stores.

For larger nests, he recommends Dust2Dust and usually one blast is enough. However, it’s always best to go back to check as some stubborn nests will take two or three attempts to clear.

By John Peneycad