Monday, February 6, 2012

Wasps Sting Man to Death in Marlborough Sounds

On Saturday a man who disturbed a wasp nest was stung repeatedly was found dead shortly afterwards. He and his nephew had been collecting firewood in the bush near his home in Marlborough Sounds when they accidentally disturbed the wasp nest. He told his nephew to run before he was overcome and stung many times on the back and arms. When his nephew returned he found his uncle lying dead on the ground.

This is a rare occurrence but does demonstrate that wasps can be highly dangerous and care should be taken not to disturb wasp nests and to destroy them in the safest manner.

The Marlborough Sounds and other areas of New Zealand bush have the highest levels of wasps (Common and German) in the world. They feed on the honeydew excreted by scale insects that live on the bark of beech trees. You may recognise the presence of the scale insects by the black sooty mould that the honeydew encourages on the bark. If you look closely you may see fine ‘hairs’ sticking out from the tree with a drop of sticky honeydew on the end. This fuels wasps and nest densities can reach 20 per hectare.

Wasp nests in the bush are usually in the ground or perhaps a tree hollow. The nest will have only one entrance/exit and can be identified by the stream of worker wasps leaving and arriving at the entrance. When dealing with a wasp nests watch the wasps and identify the nest entrance. Apply a powder insecticide such as carbaryl to the nest entrance where the returning wasps land, so that they walk the powder into the the nest where it will kill the worker wasps, larvae and queen wasp inside. Powder insecticides keep wasps calm in a similar way to the smoke used by beekeepers to keep bees calm during checking of hives. Liquids sprayed or poured on wasp nests have a tendency to aggravate the wasps and increase the likelihood of stings.

More information on the safe destruction of wasp nests.

More on this tragic story.

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