The Dangers of European Wasps
There is a German proverb that reads, “God made the bee, but the Devil made the wasp”. For the European wasp this might seem true, especially of those residing in Australia. As the warmer climate extends the life cycle of the introduced species, and a lack of predators increases its chance of survival, European wasps have become notorious in the antipodes. By reaping the benefits of mild winters that generate longer lifecycles, the introduced species has been found to build nests four times larger than those found in Europe.
There are many reasons the European wasp has such a negative reputation. Environmentally, they prey on indigenous fauna, especially other insects, and compete for nectar and food. As an introduced species, they remain unthreatened by their usual native predators and pesticides. Known to kill pets and even livestock, raid beehives for honey and bees, and decimate grape and fruit crops, European wasps are a dangerous and destructive introduced pest.
However, it is their aggressive demeanour and potentially fatal sting that have generated the most fear. When a bee stings, its stinger is left behind in the skin; in comparison, the European wasp can sting repeatedly without dying. It also emits a scent, or pheromone, that alerts other wasps to attack. This sharp sting is followed by a burning pain and inflammation; however, more serious repercussions are possible, with one in ten people being allergic to the venom. At its most extreme, this can lead to a severe and life-threatening allergic reaction, or anaphylaxis. Despite this also being the case for honey bee stings, the European wasp’s aggressive behaviour exacerbates this problem.
To make matters worse, this species is commonly drawn to social settings, and are the great unwanted barbeque guest! Attracted to sugar, European wasps nest around human habitation where they can scavenge for sweet foods and drinks. Perhaps the most infamous example is them sneakily hiding inside soft drink cans when left unattended. Factories and shops selling sweet produce—cakes, drinks, fruit—are also appealing, with the wasps hassling workers or even contaminating the product.
Unfortunately, European wasp sightings have continued to increase, with a record number of stings and enlarged nests reported in the past few years. Due to these dangers, it is strongly recommended that if you find a European wasp colony on your property it is never disturbed, and an expert is hired immediately to destroy the nest. Without this assistance, severe, and life-threatening attacks are possible.
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