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INCREASE IN WASP ACTIVITY

A 12-year-old boy has discovered the world’s largest European wasp nest in Tasmania, following reports of increased wasp activity in Victoria, too. 

ABC Rural reports that Victoria saw a high number of wasps breeding across the state during the last summer.

Patrick Honan, an entomologist and head of live exhibits with Museum Victoria, said that the last time wasps were this common was in the mid 1990s.

“The wasps can be a danger when processing, as when the crop is brought in that’s a magnet for wasps. The wasps not only affect the crops themselves, but also the people that are processing those crops.”

Mr Honan said there are not too many control options available.

He said that trapping does not seem to do much, as the average numbers of wasps in a nest can be as high as 30,000.

Mr Honan said even if you set a trap and it catches a few hundred, it wouldn’t really affect the overall number of wasps in the area.

It’s expected that as we move to a cooler few months, the wasps may be killed by the cold weather, depending on how low the temperatures drop.

ABC Rural also reports that in Tasmania, 12-year-old Jordan Waddingham has found what is believed to be the largest European wasp nest in the world on a property at Karoola, north east of Launceston (pictured above).

Honorary Research Associate at Launceston’s Queen Victoria Museum Simon Fearn said the nest was so big because it was two years old and probably contained several hundred thousand wasps.

“A one-year-old nest is the size of a soccer ball, but this nest takes up the best part of a cubic metre,” he said.

“Normally European wasp nests don’t survive through winter, but last year’s mild, dry winter allowed it to survive into its second year.

“We had to go on to the property at night when the wasps were dormant to destroy the colony. It took two days to unearth the nest from a creek bank, and four men had to carry it out of the bush.”

“The European wasp first came to the southern hemisphere in the 1940s on freight bound for New Zealand. Hibernating queens arrived in Tasmania on some freight in 1959 and then spread all over Tasmania in the 60s and 70s,” Mr Fearn said.

“By 1977 the wasps were first detected in Victoria before spreading to New South Wales, South Australia and West Australia.”

Mr Fearn said the wasps cause a lot of damage to agriculture, but do eat a lot of insects, such as flies and caterpillars. As far as targeting wasp nests on properties across the southern part of Australia, Mr Fearn offered a note of caution.

“You can’t go anywhere near a nest like this during daylight hours as the wasps defend their home rigorously. There could have been more than a hundred thousand wasps in this massive nest, so we had to wait until nightfall when the wasps were dormant.”

As far as getting stung during the operation, Mr Fearn admitted he got stung several times. A review of literature on European wasps has identified the nest as the largest underground nest ever found in the world, weighing just under 100kg.