‘They are dropping from trees’ - Wasp numbers ‘worst on record’ as Norfolk residents are ‘barricaded’ in homes
- Credit: Andrew Dellbridge
A swarm of reports of troublesome and aggressive wasps have prompted pest controllers in Norfolk and Waveney to describe it as the 'worst year on record'.
In some of the most extreme cases encountered across the region, residents have been left 'barricaded' in their houses with the discovery of nests outside their homes.
'They've been everywhere,' said Graham Hall of APC pest control of Norwich.
'It's the worst any of us have seen in 28 years of business, I imagine the worst on record. Usually as a company we get a few dozen a season, maybe less, but its been full-on wasps for six weeks now and I can only see it ramping up until we reach October.'
With their numbers soaring the voracious pests, attracted by abundant food and drink, have occupied local spaces frightening and stinging summer revellers in local amusement parks and pub gardens.
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Even zoos have been hit by the insects. 'Wasps were dropping from the trees and stinging people,' said Andrew Dellbridge of Ace Pest Control in Norwich.
'I was literally tripping over them. I've never seen such numbers.'
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Some locals have said they were 'marooned' after discovering hives of wasps nearby.
Annette Jude (inset right), a retired hospital matron and piano accompanist, discovered a nest outside her home in Framingham Earl.
She said: 'They were so insistently trying to get in from all angles that we had to shut every window and even block off the air spaces by the doors. It doesn't help that the stupid dog kept trying to catch them.'
She added: 'We were marooned,'
Mrs Jude, 74, waited a few frantic hours before pest control was able to arrive on the scene.
'Luckily for us he was already doing a job nearby, otherwise I can't imagine how long we'd have had to wait,' she said, 'The problem is that when you're near a nest its not just one of them coming at you. They go for you en masse, they're all buddies, you see.'
In one noteworthy case dealt with in July in Shipdham by Nigel Carpenter, the one-man operator of Pest Off pest control based in Postwick, the poor victim wasn't even safe inside her own home.
'I was called by emergency services who said they'd received a report from an elderly lady,' he said.
'She'd woken up that morning and opened the kitchen door to find hundreds upon hundreds of wasps flying around the place and covering every inch of her kitchen. It gave her quite the terrible fright, not in the least so because she's allergic to their stings, so she slammed the door shut and called 999.'
Luckily Mr Carpenter was able to curb the home invasion, which were entering from a nest on the inside of a window space in her kitchen, without further incident.
'I'm shattered,' he confessed. 'I'm just working by myself and I'm doing about twenty nests a day on a seven day week. The summer has been so bountiful in terms of nutrition for them that they're not even that territorial and you can see multiple nests on one property, my record being seven.'
While Mr Carpenter and most pest control operators say that the job itself is never exceedingly dangerous, ladder and loft jobs seem to present the greatest hazards.
Mr Dellbridge added: 'Ladders aren't that bad, but there's obviously the fear of being attacked while you're up one. For lofts you're wearing the full protective gear in a tight space that's about ten degrees hotter than it is outside.
'And because wasps are attracted to the light it's often better to do the job in the dark.'
Steve Moreby an insect expert at The Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, attributes this summer's wasp population explosion to a long winter that lead to a 'proper spring start.'
'Throughout the winter, the queens are the only wasps left around and they go into a winter-long hibernation,' he said. 'They only come out of hibernation once they're exposed to hot enough weather for them to think that its spring. This can mean that during winters that have some variable weather some wasp queens can be 'tricked' into thinking its spring before coming out early and dying in the cold.
'The past winter has been cold without much variation and when the spring got hot it stayed hot, meaning few have been tricked.
'This is why we're seeing such numbers this summer.'