Wasp warning to farmers – nest removal can be dangerous

ENTITIES CAN pose an occupational hazard to farmers – so it is important that they understand the dangers posed by stinging insects.

As summer draws closer to autumn, traditionally the time of year when wasps’ temperament deteriorates, the British Pest Control Association has warned that while a single sting is bothersome, multiple stings can pose a real health and safety hazard especially if a nest attempt is made to remove it goes wrong.

Nests are often found in wall cavities and attics, but also in outbuildings such as sheds and garages. Different species nest in the ground, in trees or in masonry. The BPCA advises leaving wasp nests alone in areas with little traffic, as the species, although considered a nuisance, is valuable both as a casual pollinator and as a pest controller that feeds its larvae from caterpillars and other insects.

Dee Ward-Thompson, Head of Technical at BPCA said, “A wasp nest about the size of a golf ball in the spring will house a lone queen and a few workers. But as the colony grows, hundreds of wasps build the nest, which can expand to the size of a beach ball to accommodate them all. Each is a unique piece of architecture, home to around 5000 wasps during peak activity in late summer.

“When wasps are threatened, they can send out a pheromone that acts like an emergency call to others in the nest and kill you.”

Most stings cause pain, redness, and swelling, but a small percentage can cause anaphylaxis – an allergic reaction that can be fatal. The consulting allergist and immunologist Dr. Andrew Whyte advised those bitten to get as much information as possible about the insect responsible, as the poison produced can vary between species: “In adults, insect bites cause up to a quarter of cases of anaphylaxis, which it becomes a very important issue of the public health, especially among those who are professionally exposed to stings.

“Symptoms can appear very quickly (within minutes) and rarely more than 30 to 45 minutes after the bite. Some of the symptoms include swelling of the tongue, swelling or narrowing of the throat, difficulty breathing, abdominal pain, vomiting, dizziness, and loss of consciousness.

“Stings are unavoidable, but farmers can minimize the risk by avoiding brightly colored clothing, highly scented materials, covering exposed skin, and not eating or drinking outdoors – especially from cans or opaque containers,” he warned.

“If you have been given adrenaline pens, you should always carry them with you, and if you have anaphylaxis, you should be examined in a specialized allergy clinic.”

The BPCA recommends removing nests in early spring, when there are few wasps in them, or in late autumn after they have been abandoned. An established nest that becomes a nuisance in the summer should be treated by a professional pest controller, and farmers who may be allergic to the poison should never attempt to control a wasp nest.

Ms. Ward-Thompson added, “Using DIY products like sprays on a small nest in the spring can nip potential wasp problems in the bud, but they’re unlikely to be effective against larger, more established nests. You will see all kinds of home improvement guides online. They are all very dangerous and are not recommended by BPCA.

“The warnings and directions on the label are subject to change for insecticides and other products, so it is important that farmers read the latest information and advice before using a product – including one they have previously used. We always recommend seeking help from a professional pest controller in dealing with pesky wasp nests. Treating a wasp nest can be very dangerous. Wasps in the nest feel threatened and often become aggressive. ”

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