Revealed: Pest control teams worked round-the-clock to stamp out wasp epidemic
- Credit: .Ian .Carstairs
The summer of 2018 was one of the hottest on record, bringing a sweltering spell and a real buzz to the region.
However, this buzz was not just brought by families taking to the coast, soaking up the rays and enjoying the sunshine.
Alongside this, it was brought by swarms of wasps, which were out in force circling bins, buzzing around food and generally making nuisances of themselves.
But while their presences was clearly more noticeable, new figures have revealed that in Norwich alone, the city council's pest control team were called upon twice as many times in July and August as the previous two summers combined.
In July and August 2018, Norwich City Council was called upon 55 times to deal with wasps. In 2017 it was called upon just seven times across May, June, July and August, while in the same months of 2017 it dealt with 17 cases.
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However, it was outside of the city that demand for pest control really took its toll, with the number of calls in the hundreds.
In July and August 2018, South Norfolk Council was called upon 603 times, while Broadland District Council dealt with 347 cases.
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These figures are also significant increases on the previous summer, with July and August 2017 bringing 71 cases in South Norfolk and 247 in Broadland.
However, with only some councils offering in-house pest control services, these figures are merely the tip of the insect iceberg.
Ryan Ballard, a Diss-based technician for Millennium Pest Control, which serves a number of Norfolk's councils, said at times its offices were taking on up to 130 calls per day, just to deal with wasps.
He said: 'It really was a crazy summer for us – some of us were working from six in the morning until eight or nine at night at times, just to keep up with the demand.
'We tend to be busy every summer but this one was particularly so and we have still been taking calls right into the winter
'Even last week we were doing wasp-related jobs which really is fairly unheard of.'
A freedom of information request was submitted to the four councils offering in-house pest control services. It asked for the number of times their services were required to deal with wasps over the past three summers.
The responses were as follows:
Norwich City Council
2016 - May - one, June - one , July - seven, August - eight. Total - 17
2017: May - three, June - one, July - one, August - two. Total - seven
2018: May - one , June - three, July - 27 , August. - 28. Total - 59
South Norfolk Council
2016: May - 16, June - 29, July - 151, August - 272. Total - 468
2017: May - 35, June, 24, July - 62, August 95. Total - 160
2018: May - eight, June, 56, July 322, August - 281. Total - 667.
Broadland District Council (figures given for summer months)
April 2018 to end July 2018 - 347.
Great Yarmouth Borough Council did not respond to the request.
Why was it so bad?
Tony Bennett, one of Millennium's surveyors, said the changing climate was the main factor in just how prevalent the insects were.
Mr Bennett, who has worked in pest control since 1982, said it was one of the busiest summers he had ever experienced.
He said: 'I've heard in the business that 1976 was one of the worst epidemics of wasps in the county, but I was just a lad then. However I struggle to remember many summers worse than the one just gone.
'The year started off fairly slowly for wasps given the snow, but the heat of the summer meant they were out in force.'
He added that the sheer number meant the work carried over well into the winter.
He said: 'Normally, the workers will have died off by the first frost while the queens hibernate.
'However, with the number and the winter getting warmer, they are still about now.'