Wasp Invasion!

Photo by Gayla Trail  All Rights Reserved

I haven’t noticed it to be quite the exaggerated horror film some are saying, but apparently Toronto is in the midst of a yellow jacket population explosion. The increase is thought to be the result of the combination of a cool, wet season, and the recently resolved garbage strike. All-in-all there’s just a lot more bugs in our gardens this summer, period.

Which is why, like Not Far From the Tree, I would also urge home owners to reconsider calling in an exterminator to destroy nests. Wasps may be a nuisance around the backyard barbecue, but they are also predatory insects that help to reduce the increased population in pesky plant eaters like aphids. Check out this fantastic series from Chair Brière of a yellow jacket eating a cabbage worm.

Yesterday afternoon I happened upon this scene on the sidewalk. I’m not sure if the yellow jackets are doing us any favors by decreasing the cicada population (I love cicadas) but unfortunately like spiders, they aren’t very discriminating. Still, it was fascinating to watch them in action, if not a little bit gruesome.

Gayla Trail
Gayla is a writer, photographer, and former graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the author, photographer, and designer of best-selling books on gardening, cooking, and preserving.

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24 thoughts on “Wasp Invasion!

  1. There are two companies that make a product that is not lethal to wasps and yellowjackets, but it helps keep them away from areas where we don’t want them. They are fake wasp nests that simulate a real nest and the wasps stay away because they are territorial. One is called the Waspinator:http://www.waspinator.com/
    The other one is called Get Lost Wasp:
    We sell them where I work and have had good feedback. I like that it doesn’t kill the wasps.

  2. I usually have about one wasp a day find its way indoors, and I always patiently catch and release them (with a bowl, not with my hands). I’ve never seen them swarming, and they’ve never been aggressive — and I’ve also not had ANY problems with pest insects this year!

  3. Out on the west coast we’ve noticed an increase in our wasp population too – but we’ve had a hot & dry summer (very much the opposite of what we are used to) which has resulted in very nice results in the gardens but we’ve not yet figured out why the wasps are still here!

  4. I have never been stung by a wasp or bee before and though I have a small fear of it, I have yet to set out traps for wasps because of their beneficial predatory nature.

    I was super psyched to have discovered a hornworm covered in brachonid wasp cocoons the other day and when I saw your video of the wasps it reminded me of the other beneficial insect in my garden recently that I took a video of, the tachinid fly.

    The following link shows the bugger really going after a hornworm:

    Just cool that these usually maligned bugs are some of the best things to have in a garden. I only wish people could be more aware :(

  5. And here in the Yukon, same thing as Michelle has been experiencing…hot and dry this summer but lots of wasps. I used to be terrified of them, but now I just ignore them and they ignore me and we get along just fine. I hope more and more people realize their importance and choose not to try to exterminate them.

  6. Oh, maybe THAT explains why we have had so many more than usual. I thought perhaps we were being singled out. We had a BBQ the other night and couldn’t even eat outdoors.

    In general, I don’t mind wasps: however, most of the happy garden-type wasps that eat aphids and stuff couldn’t care less about stinging people. (most are teeny tiny, not the big yellow stripey ones)

    I do have a vendetta now against the one that stung my baby on the neck a couple of weeks ago! :-(((

  7. Yeah I’m not too happy about the one that stung me in the lip TWICE but if I look at it from his perspective I’m sure he was none too happy about being drank either.

  8. I do love wasps, really. I love the way their wings hang down like a fancy party dress. Yellow jackets on the other hand scare me. It’s the way they hover over anything that gets disturbed in the garden and beat their wings with such ferocity that it creates a tiny windstorm. And then how they chase me sometimes, for sport. Although that must look hysterical, who can blame them? This video gives me nightmares though. What a way to go. I think it’s triggering my getting-devoured-by-ants phobia! Thanks as usual for the post!

  9. I can’t say I love wasps, I’ve been trying to work in the yard but I got stung not once but TWICE today @#$%! I’m sure I can’t swear here but believe me, every word in the book is going through my head right now! If there’s only one thing in this world I hate, it’s those pesky wasps that are in your face!

  10. Absolutely terrified of wasps/yellow jackets/bees, etc. I’m allergic to them (carry an epi-pen), which may explain some of fear. Even the sound of their buzzing causing me to panic (I had to scroll down through this post quickly – don’t even like to look at them).

  11. Wasps and yellow jackets are very abundant and very agressive here. I try to avoid them but sometimes they won’t leave me alone so then they have to go, which I hate to do but their stings, especially yellow jackets, make me sick.

  12. They’re cool and yet very scary at the same time. I got stung by one once and it was enough to instill a healthy fear in me.

    I try not to bother them and so far my rule to keep a respectful distance from them has paid off.

    Cool videos.

  13. I was laughing at myself yesterday when I was walking my bike down a sidewalk and a wasp was all over me bugging, bugging, bugging and some of my “won’t you please think of the wasps” feelings were diminishing. Ha!

    I spilled tomatoes all over my bike basket and bike last week so I was a good target.

  14. Ciao all-

    When the yellowjackets are in “normal” populations, they don’t bother me as much as they used to. I used to have a serious phobia of them, stemming from the time as a toddler, I unknowingly stuck my entire arm into a nest. The entrance was a knothole in someone’s deck. We have a pear tree and they normally will buzz around the fallen fruit. I’ve even gotten to the point where I can pick the fruit up even when they’re buzzing around it, a huge step for me.

    However, this year, it’s a different story. They’ve built nests in 2 places on either side of our garage, making it nearly impossible for me to get the car out or even open the door. As a full-time gardener, I couldn’t deal with that kind of impact into my work schedule so we ended up using an exterminator who uses some kind of benign soapy water spray. They’re still there, having eaten through the crack filler Duane put in there, attempting to wall up the nest, but their populations are now much lower so I can walk around the side of the house and open the garage safely.

    I figure we have a few more weeks of their nonsense before their food supply dwindles and so do their numbers.

  15. Well that bizarro. I got stung by a wasp first time ever this summer in Little Compton, Rhode Island- It just came out of nowhere and stung me that little bug!

    It was kind of cool to watch my finger swell in a weird way….

  16. I can understand why everyone hates getting stung. It’s amazingly painful. But a neighbor gave me a good remedy. Crush an aspirin and make a paste with a little bit of water and put it on the sting. Takes down the swelling and the pain. We tie a puffed up paper bag which looks a little like a wasp nest, near our outside table to discourage them. That seems to help a bit.

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