Many ‘enthusiastic’ about wasp project

Local Rotarians and fellow volunteers will be deploying wasp bait stations in Dunedin’s Town Belt...
Local Rotarians and fellow volunteers will be deploying wasp bait stations in Dunedin’s Town Belt, Southern Cemetery and Ross Creek areas this weekend. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Teams of volunteers, including local Rotarians, will head into the inner-city bush this Sunday morning to deploy wasp bait stations in an annual wasp eradication project.

Led by the Dunedin South Rotary Club, the project will involve at least 13 teams of four, who will place Vespex bait stations throughout Dunedin’s Town Belt, Southern Cemetery and Ross Creek areas — all places where wasps are a problem.

Now in its third year, the wasp project was the brainchild of project leader and Dunedin South Rotary member Robert Gale, who noticed a lot of wasp activity in the Town Belt and decided to start a Rotary project to help control the wasp population.

"This is a project that a lot of people are enthusiastic about — everybody is keen to help reduce the number of wasps in our green spaces," Mr Gale said.

So with funding support from the Dunedin City Council, volunteers head into city bush areas in February and March, when temperatures are warm and the wasps are seeking protein, to deploy hundreds of bait stations.

There were 210 bait stations deployed in 2022, and 260 in 2023. This year, there will be 400 bait stations set up across the three main areas, and in some private spaces.

The enclosed bait stations, containing targeted wasp bait Vespex, are set at a height of about 1.5m on a tree in a sunny position. Honey bees and native wasps are not attracted to the bait.

A week later the participants retrieve the bait stations, and where possible recycle the plastic housings and signs for use again the next year. A record of how much bait has been taken is kept.

There is no need to find or go near the wasp nests, as the wasps find the bait and take it back to their nest, and it is 98% effective.

"The Town Belt is an ideal place for the bait stations, as wasps living along both sides of the corridor will forage there, find the bait, take it back to the nest and kill it," Mr Gale said.

"The wasps do all the hard work themselves.

"Anecdotally, we are getting reports from people in the area who say there are definitely fewer wasps around — so the project does seem to be helping," he said.

The Dunedin City Council supports the project by covering the costs of the hardware and bait required as well as covering the costs of the Vespex licences required.

A spokeswoman said as the council had a limited budget for wasp nest eradication, the Rotary-led project was a great help in its wasp control efforts.

"Wasp numbers have increased over the last few years with the warmer temperatures. The more proactive nest control the community can help with, the greater impact we can have," the spokeswoman said.

Mr Gale is delighted that the city’s Rotary clubs have got on board with the project, along with teams from local businesses.

"The more teams we have out there, the faster we can get the bait stations deployed," he said.

Other members of the public are also welcome to join the wasp project on Sunday — meet at Cobden St, outside Olveston, at 10am this Sunday.

 - If people spot active wasp nests, please report them to the DCC by sending a photo and a description of the location (ideally a Google Map screenshot or GPS waypoint).