Wasps, Hornets and Murder Hornets…. don’t panic!
It’s summer and while us Brits do love a bit of summer; we generally hate the arrival of the wasps and even hornets. There are some of us who sit there with a wasp crawling over their face saying “if you leave it alone it will go away” and there are others who fight the invisible man when a single wasp comes within 10 feet. To add to the fear this year we now have rumours of a giant hornet making its way to our shores dubbed the murder hornet… for those of us with families what should we do and what should we worry about?
Disclaimer – If you have any kind of allergy to wasp or bee stings then naturally being around them is risky. The advice in this article is aimed at those with no allergic reactions.
First of all, let’s clear this rumour up. There are 3 types of hornets you need to know about. The first one is our native hornet. While they are big, much bigger than a wasp, and they do look scary they are actually not. Though to be honest if you don’t like wasps then no matter what you are told a hornet will make you run for the hills. The reality is that these are quite gentle giants. They will always tend to move away from you rather than towards you and they very rarely sting. It is generally thought they are more likely to bite than sting as it takes up less energy. The sting is saved for very serious defence. So, while you may not fancy a hornet in your home, they are not a huge threat to kids or adults.
The second type of hornet you need to know about is the Asian Hornet. This is where the confusion comes in! The Asian hornet is smaller than our native hornet and a lot darker in colour, actually black in parts. This creature is spreading across the globe and it is a big threat to our native bee populations which in turn puts a lot of our ecosystem under threat. BUT they are not dangerous to humans, yes, they sting, but no more than a wasp really and they are not aggressive. There have been some very rare sitings in the UK and they are destroyed. So, while they are something to be aware of environmentally, they are not about to take over and it is all under control
The final type of hornet is the Giant Asian Hornet, and here lies the issue. The giant Asian hornet is a whooper! And it does look terrifying, it is also dangerous in the sense that multiple stings really could make you very ill. But it isn’t coming to the UK, nor is it coming to Europe. They do have a potential issue in the US but it is still very rare. The newspapers sadly mis reported this as the Asian Hornet that had been spotted in the UK and called it the Murder Hornet (this was actually because it kills a lot of bees). The Giant Asian Hornet has not been seen in the UK
So, don’t panic about hornets! Our native hornet is actually very interesting, and it is worth trying to engage kids about them and be excited when they see one.
Wasps, as a rule are not dangerous, but they can be if you do the wrong thing. It is really important to know that if you have a suspected nest at home you need to get it removed. Kids and pets, as well as adults with mowers etc can disturb them and they will attack. This is the only time they are a real danger, and this really is something for the professionals, it is a bad idea to leave a nest alone if anyone is likely to disturb it.
The wasps we see out and about are foraging for food for the hive. They are very busy and work very hard. For energy they seek out sweet high calory foods to keep them going and this is where humans come in. Our ice creams, fizzy drinks, cakes and even beer seem like perfect food so in they come. They are not trying to sting us or attack us; they are looking for food. But if sat on, or put under threat they will sting and it isn’t very nice. For kids it can be scary and create a lifelong fear of wasps. Sadly, the idea that if you leave them alone, they will go away when there is food around simply doesn’t work. Flapping around might make them move off but generally you need to either put up with them or remove the food source. Later in the summer the Queen will move off to find a new nest and the workers are left homeless and with nothing to feed. They tend to then just fly around eating and gradually dying…often slightly drunk from rotting fruit. If you pack away the food and wipe down any surfaces you may find they move off. It is well worth teaching kids about what they are doing and why they do it.
So, the key to avoiding wasps is to not have food and drink outside but that wouldn’t be much fun! Managing this food and drink is useful and remember, if you have a nest, get it removed professionally.
Enjoy the summer!