Norwegians are having to battle more than uncomfortably warm temperatures and forest fires this summer. Now they’re being plagued by wasps as well, with experts warning of “explosive growth” in the wasp population.
“There can be many, many wasps through August, at least in southern and central Norway,” senior researcher Frode Ødegaard of the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA) told news bureau NTB this week. “When it’s so warm as it has been, it yields very good conditions for the wasps to build their nests.”
The nests are called vepseboler in Norwegian, and they’re now forming at a rapid pace under the eaves of roofs, in sheds and outhouses. They normally don’t become a problem until late August or even September, at the end of the summer season, but this year they’ve already been buzzing around for weeks as Southern Norway sizzles through a summer season that began in May and also has set off the worst drought in decades.
Less food but thriving in heat
Ødegaard said the wasps are part of an insect family that gets especially large every other year during mating season. They mostly live off other insects, but the hot dry weather has dramatically reduced the mosquito population and other bugs that traditionally have provided food for the wasps.
“We’re unsure how this will all pan out,” Ødegaard told NTB, since the wasps face reduced sources of food, but he seems certain that conditions are otherwise ideal for the sun-loving insect.
The warmth, he said allows the wasps’ larve to develop more quickly just as the “worker wasps” get really busy. “When we have rainy weather, the wasps tend to stay inside their nests,” Ødegaard said. “When it’s sunny and warm, they’re much more active.”
Norwegians currently on summer holiday at their hytter or elsewhere have likely become acutely aware of such activity already. While wasps play an important role in nature, by keeping the fly and mosquito population down and pollinating vegetation, their sting can be painful and even life-threatening for anyone allergic to bee stings.
“Folks are very worried about getting stung,” Ødegaard said. “My advice is that people should stay calm when wasps start flying around them, and avoid drinking beer or soft drinks out of a can. The wasps can creep inside them and if swallowed, a sting in the throat is dangerous.”
Stein Norstein, a biologist for the pest control firm Anticimex, also reports an increase in wasps this summer, and agrees there can be many more. He advises quick removal of wasps’ nests.
“There are many ways of removing a wasps’ nest, either with a stone to crush it or putting a bag around it and tearing it loose from the wall,” Norstein told NTB. He warned that the bigger a nest gets, though, the more caution is needed: “In August the nests can be big, and if you mess with them, you can quickly have hundreds of wasps after you.”