A sting in the tail that really bites

2015-10-13 06:00
European paper wasps on a nest.

European paper wasps on a nest.

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Awaking from their winter dormancy, the devilish and very invasive little black and yellow Paper wasps are back to make life hell for residents of Cape Town. But the City says they are ready for this onslaught.

Since invading the city several years ago, the species – said to have made their appearance in Kuils River in 2010 – have plagued local households.

Since the launch of the invasive wasp control (IWC) teams in 2014, the City has removed 8 000 European paper wasp nests from suburbs across the Cape including areas such as Ottery, Plumstead, Constantia, Woodstock, Athlone and Wetton, says Mayco member for energy, environmental and spatial planning, Johan van der Merwe.

Both alien invasive wasp species, the European paper wasp (polistes dominula) and the German wasp (vespula germanica) are listed as a category 1b invasive species in the Alien and Invasive Species regulations in the National Environmental Management Biodiversity Act.

“This means that scientists have agreed that the wasps, by law, have to be removed as they pose a threat to the local ecosystem and several important industries such as deciduous fruit, wine and bee keeping industries,” says Van der Merwe.

In some parts of the USA, where the same wasps invaded in the 1980’s and 90’s, entire colonies of indigenous species were destroyed.

Cape Town residents are advised to be aware that the sting from these wasps is particularly painful.

“Last season there were many reports of the German wasp stinging workers harvesting grapes and other fruit. The wasps also present a hazard to residents who may unintentionally disturb a colony.”

A second team was introduced, following the hundreds of sightings and wasp removal requests by residents last summer.

“Residents are encouraged to report sightings to the City or contact a reputable pest control company. Property owners are primarily responsible for pest control on their premises, and the City will assist according to available capacity,” he says.

If nests are removed privately, property owners are urged to send a report containing their street address and the number of nests removed to invasive.species@capetown.gov.za as this helps with the City’s future planning and research.

“The City will make every effort to timeously assist the public where possible, within our available capacity, to ensure their safety and peace of mind,” says Van der Merwe. He adds that the IWC teams are neither trained nor equipped to deal with bee removal. Should residents require bee removal, they should contact a professional bee keeper. The team will also not exterminate indigenous wasps. Residents who would like assistance can upload sightings on the spotter network at www.capetowninvasives.org.za/edrr/target-list, and thereafter they will be contacted to arrange the removal. For a description of the booking procedures, please visit www.capetowninvasives.org.za/news

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