A town is grappling with an out-of-control invasion of wasps that means people can’t eat outside and have to be careful with their drinks.
After being ravaged by bushfires, the Aussie town of Mallacoota is now dealing with an “out of control” wasp problem.
The small East Gippsland town has been battling with an influx of European wasps since last year’s summer fires that temporarily cut off the town from the rest of Victoria.
“Post fires, they’ve just gone out of control,” local Martin Ascher said.
When Mr Ascher moved to Mallacoota almost 17 years ago, there were wasps in the area, but with help of the local shire, managed to reduce numbers.
“We almost eliminated them, but then we’ve had the fires,” he said.
“Everyone’s complaining about them and it’s just not here in Mallacoota, it’s all the way out on the east coast.
“If you’re trying to have food outside, they’re in your food, they’re trying to get into your drinks.
“There was a little girl at school recently. One went up her t-shirt and it continually stung her and she collapsed on the ground and they eventually found out why.”
Mr Ascher said the fires destroyed wasps’ food supplies, making them compete with other wildlife for nectar.
“Parts of the township that weren’t burnt are now inundated,” he said.
“We need to get rid of them, they’re an absolute pest.
“Because we’re a tourist destination, the last thing you want to do is have people come here and they have a bugger of a time because they haven’t been able to have a barbecue outside and the wasps are in their food.”
Mr Ascher said he had reports of wasps being an issue as far as Walhalla, 400km away near Traralgon.
He is looking into different solutions to help get the problem under control.
“It’s something that you can’t sit back and let it happen, because it’ll just take over the township,” he said.
Mike Coupar says wasps have been flying around his small orchard on Karbeethong Hill, about five kilometres from the Mallacoota township, for a “good month”
“There’s certainly masses of them flying around our property right at the moment,” he said.
“They’re going for nectar at the moment – the sugary plants.
“It’s a bit of a nuisance, being an introduced species. They can cause a bit of a problem for people, if stung.
“I’ve never seen so many as this year in Mallacoota.”
Mr Coupar says the wasps were caught in fruit fly traps set around his property but they have been unable to find a nest.
“The fruit fly traps work really well. But we never expected to trap wasps in them as well.”
Agriculture Victoria helps confirm reports of European wasp infestations and offers general advice, but does not formally monitor their prevalence in particular areas.
The wasps often increase in numbers over summer and into autumn if weather conditions remain favourable and food is available, which could explain the reports in Mallacoota, a spokeswoman said.
“Eradication of European wasps on a large scale is not feasible. Reduction of local problems can be achieved by destruction of nests, if these can be located, or by use of bait stations or traps,” the spokeswoman said.
The European wasp has spread widely throughout Victoria since the 1990s, with numbers varying each year based on seasonal conditions.
Experts advise using a licenced pest controller to safely destroy nests.
Any chemical products used to control the wasps must be registered for that purpose in Victoria and used strictly in line with the product label.