If you’ve been dodging and swatting wasps in your backyard this summer in Red Deer and central Alberta, know that you’re not alone.
Kerry Wood Nature Centre executive director Todd Nivens said Thursday that hot, dry conditions have led to an increased amount of the insect in the region.
“Hot dry weather speeds up the life cycle, so the eggs hatch faster, the larva develops faster and that is producing a greater number of adults, faster,” explained Nivens.
“Those greater number of adults then build more nests and lay more eggs and the cycle just repeats itself faster.”
Nivens said even at the centre’s property, they’ve had to change how they mark and categorize nests and wasps bite incidents.
“We’ve had such an increase of wasps nests being reported within our properties, we’ve gone from filling out a separate report for every single one of them, to we’ve just created a database that has a google pin system… we had to for efficiency. There is absolutely more of them,” he said.
Mike Hansen, with DeadBug Pest Control in Red Deer, said he’s been dealing with wasps nests non-stop this summer. Last summer, he had to get rid of about nine and so far this year, he’s taken out 74 nests. He said some are even as large as volleyballs.
“It’s just out of control. It’s just wasps, I haven’t seen any hornets personally… now is the time of year where the nests are a good size and they’re getting really aggressive. (Wednesday) I had one that was grapefruit size,” he said.
“Most of them are getting up to volleyball size or bigger. Once they get big and ugly, that’s when they call us.”
Hansen’s advice for homeowners who have a nest is simple: Beyond calling a professional, be smart and be safe.
“We need to be able to find the nest in order to remove the problem. If you look and see where they are going in and out. If you mark that, then we can deal with them,” he said.
“It’s about having the right tools and knowing how to use those tools.”
Hansen said he would recommend using wasp foam over other products but if you can’t find it, any insecticide should do the job.
Nivens explained one of the reasons wasps are flourishing in the hot temperatures has to do with their genetic makeup. Wasps don’t regulate temperature like people or cold-blooded animals, instead, keeping their internal temperature tuned to whatever the weather is like outside.
“Wasps are part of that group of animals, whatever the temperature is outside, that’s the temperature that they are. They don’t have the ability to thermoregulate like (humans). They don’t have the same adaptations like a true cold-blooded animal, like a lizard,” he said.
“If a lizard gets too warm, it has ways of redistributing blood flow to its extremities to cool itself down… wasps don’t, if it is really warm outside, wasps are really warm, their metabolism speeds up, the process goes faster, you get more wasps.”
While Nivens admits the insects are a nuisance around the house and backyard, they do serve a purpose in the grander echo system.
“People have a hate-hate relationship with them,” Nivens said with a laugh.
“They do have a role in the eco-system. They are controlling other insects and pests because they eat them. At the same time, they eat pollinators, but they also act as pollinators. They have their role, the problem with them is their half an ounce of rage and spitefulness. Because of that, we hate them.”