Editorial: No mercy for wasps

I am not, on the whole, a violent woman.

Spiders may spin their webs without interference, and choose their corner to await an unwary fly. Bees can go about their business without fear, and the fluttering of a moth's wings serves simply as a reminder it's time to close the windows. I kill very little, and have perfected the art of trapping a blundering bumble bee in a glass in order to release it outside.

But all bets are off when it comes to wasps, and any Buddhist-like leanings are swept aside by the belief that the only good wasp is a dead one.

And now, it would seem entomologists agree, as they research the best ways to control New Zealand's ever increasing wasp population, and attempt to drum up increased funding to deal with the problem.

In recent weeks, there have been a number of wasp stories in New Zealand media. Farmer Janet Kelland thought she might die after being attacked in a remote location northwest of Taumarunui; nine pupils from a Nelson primary school and an adult were taken to hospital after stumbling across a wasp nest at a local beach, and exterminators have reported dealing with huge nests containing thousands of the insects.

Experts say the wasp problem has become worse with the arrival of another invader, giant willow aphids which produce honeydew, a favourite wasp food. The rapid spread of those pests over the past few years has fuelled wasp population growth.

Warm, dry weather has also contributed to the large number of wasps noticed around the country over the past few months. We've possibly become blase about the creatures - they've been around long enough and plenty of people will have experienced a wasp sting - but the experts are sounding a note of caution.

Professor Phil Lester from Victoria University's School of Biological Sciences says people end up in hospital regularly after being stung by wasps.

He describes wasps as really aggressive, and probably the most harmful animal we have in New Zealand.

And, he says, people will die.

And if that's the case, we might need to re-think our longstanding belief that we live in a country harbouring no creepy crawlies that can kill you - unlike our Australian neighbours, with their proliferation of biting, stinging and killing creatures.

It means we need to know what to do if we find a nest, or find ourselves under attack, and we need to make sure our children also know what to do.

And it means I'll keep on killing the nasty little buggers. One wasp at a time. For the good of the country.

You're welcome.

The Timaru Herald