I’ve noticed that often when someone says the word ‘wasp’ in a conversation or posts the word ‘wasp’ on social media, a general frenzy, almost hysteria, breaks out. Almost immediately stories will erupt about a friend of a friend or a second cousin or a neighbour being stung by a wasp, or by a whole colony of wasps. Tragedy is only averted after swift action possibly involving a trip to the hospital.
I get it – wasps are mean looking beasts with big eyes and a venomous stinger that can deliver pain and cause a few days of annoyance.
Some people (I’ve read perhaps 1% -3% of the population) are highly allergic to the proteins that a wasp injects into the skin when it stings. This could lead to a serious reaction (anaphylactic shock) that requires immediate medical attention.
For me though, fortunately, wasps are merely a nuisance, a flying critter I want to be aware of because a sting will result in swelling, itchiness, a sore spot for a few days.
A wasp nest can be an indicator of a healthy garden – no out of control pesticide use. It also means you’ve got an insect ally hard at work controlling the many unwanted insects in your garden. “Adult wasps typically prey on a wide variety of caterpillars including corn earworms, armyworms, loopers, and hornworms. Adult wasps also utilize beetle larvae and flies as food for their young.”
I’ve found that if I leave a wasp alone it will leave me alone. They’re attracted to sugary things (which is why they always seem to show up at a picnic involving watermelon or soft drinks) so I watch out near the compost pile after adding melon or peach rinds. If one starts buzzing around me I’ll slowly move away or gently bat (if that’s not an oxymoron) it aside – I definitely don’t want to agitate it! There’s all sorts of information out there on how best to move a wasp nest if you absolutely have to (ie if a colony starts to build their own condominium if the beams of your back porch). I’d suggest though, if possible, to let it be until most die off in the winter (generally through starvation).