We love the summer, but it does bring the problem of flying things that sting. Anyone with kids will know wasps are a pain, they may only sting once in a while, but they cause panic at picnics and various other times. But knowing more about wasps does help deal with them so here is some useful info about these winged stingy things…oh and murder hornets too!
OK, let’s get this one out the way. There were a number of newspaper reports about Asian Hornets coming over to the UK and they were terrifying. They were also untrue and part of a big mix up that caused a lot of panic and still does. The so called “murder hornets” mentions are the giant Asian hornet. These hornets are massive and scary, but they are not coming to the UK. What are possibly coming to the UK are Asian Hornets…. just not the giant ones. These creatures are actually smaller than our native hornet and not a threat to us at all. They are a threat to our bee population though, so they do need to be controlled. So it is really important to understand we WILL NOT see the massive scary giant Asian hornet here. If you hear people talking about them do feel free to sound knowledgeable and correct them.
Wasps, Bees and Hornets
All these insects fall under the same family, the Hymenopterans, this group also includes ants. There are a number of differences between bees, wasps and hornets and while they are easy to tell apart some people do get confused. Wasps are much more yellow, the strips are very clear too. Wasps and bees are a similar size but bees are much darker and plainer to look at. Hornets are pretty big, you really cant mistake a Hornet for anything else. They have a more orange appearance and sound totally different. Due to having long thin wings they make a much deeper buzzing sound.
Bees really don’t want to sting you, they will only do so if threatened and defending the nest. They are generally docile and tend to focus on flowers rather than us. Wasps feed on a wide range of things so sweet treats on a table are certainly attractive to them. They will sting a little more readily but really only if they are being squashed or the defending a nest. Hornets are actually very docile and will try to move away from people generally. They are very unlikely to sting and, infact, are more likely to bite before stinging.
- The hornet sting is the most painful but most unlikely
- A bee sting does hurt, depending on how much venom gets injected from the sack the pain level varies.
- Wasps are the least painful but sadly most likely to sting you.
Why are Wasps so Annoying?
For kids wasps are more than annoying, they are pretty scary and in all fairness a lot of parents feel the same. It is worth understanding a bit about their life cycle to see why they do what they do. Essentially, they are born and then start work. Their job is to go out and find material to build the nest and to find food for growing larvae in the nest. You will often see them seemingly eating wood, and they kind of are. They chew it up and take it back to the nest to use it like papier mache. In terms of food they hunt other insects to take back to the nest mainly and this actually helps keep the numbers down of a huge number of quite annoying little flies and the like. When it comes to why they bother us its because to keep going they seek out sweet things for energy. In a natural environment they would eat fallen fruit and berries. However, because we like to have lots of sweet things wasps will be attracted to our picnics, drinks and ice creams. They are desperately seeking some energy to carry on working. As the summer comes to an end the queen will abandon the nest to find somewhere to hide away for the winter. This means all those workers have nothing to do, they simply fly around eating sweet things and then the die. A lot of the time the fallen fruit can have alcohol in it too, so they are homeless drunk insects with nothing to do. It is a bit of a sad tale, but it does explain why they are such a pain.
How to Deal with Wasps
Basically, if there is nothing sweet around, they should go away. Try to keep containers shut and if you are having a day at the beach, eat then put everything away. One of the upshots of Covid-19 is that pub tables are wiped down much more and this means there is less sweet sticky residue to attract wasps. Try to explain more about them to the kids, it may relax them a little. If they do get stung get some anti-histamine cream on it and something cold. The pain will subside pretty rapidly.
Bees get all the affection because they are so important but wasps also play an important role as do hornets. We all have to squash a wasp now and then but if you can let it out of a window rather than kill it then try. Let’s all learn to love the humble wasp!
Nb. Collaborative post.