Australian Paper Wasps in the Garden – another case of Knowledge is Power!

Often, when I talk to people about wasps, I find they look upon them very unfavourably as a menace to family health and often for this reason… something to be destroyed on sight.

Most often the wasps that come to these people’s minds first are in the Paper Wasp family which, as their name suggests, build their fantastic nests out of papery material often found in protected locations under eaves and hidden in dense vegetation like hedging. I believe one of the reasons they are more frequently found close to dwellings in suburbia is that they havn’t got as much access to all of the nice high ‘out of our way’ spots that taller trees and natural dense stands of vegetation that they’re used to in the wild. Lawns make terrible wasp habitat!

In the danger-zone
Large colony In the danger-zone

The thing is most native Paper Wasps have very little interest in attacking you unless they regard their nest is under threat. Fairly understandable really… living in a colony means that many of their young’uns are together and under threat at the same time, hence the desire to defend said colony is relatively strong. Human parents would probably get pretty violent if they found their Childcare centre was under attack too!!! ;-p

The only time i’ve been attacked is if I’ve accidentally pruned too close to a nest I neglected to detect, in which case I say ‘fair enough guys, message received!’. Working close to active nests, i’ve found remaining calm also helps in keeping the wasps calm. Of coarse I keep an eye on them for warning signs too, such as individuals on the nest beginning to turn and face you.

Now, don’t get me wrong… if a member of your family is allergic to wasp stings I can fully understand the need to keep paper wasp nests away from your living areas etc.

BUT… I happily co-exist with these guys both where I live, and in gardens I work at all around the Central Coast and Hunter Valley. Not only that, but they provide a POWERFUL pest control function in these gardens which saves me a lot of effort and energy.

As soon as a population establishes itself within range of a vegetable garden I see almost no Cabbage Patch Butterfly caterpillars on Brassicas (Cabbage, Cauliflower, Kale, Asian Greens, Broccoli etc.) with wasp individuals continually scouring leaves for more grubs.

Native Paper Wasp making a right mess of a 3-Striped Potato Beetle Larva
Native Paper Wasp making a right mess of a 3-Striped Potato Beetle Larva

Native Paper wasps are also the only thing i’ve seen actively attempting to control the larvae of 3-Striped Potato Beetle (Lema daturaphila) making me think they’re likely to go for larva of Leaf-eating Ladybeetles (Epilachna spp.) too. Natural Pest Control Champions!

So next time you find a Native Paper Wasp nest, take a deep breath, think again and evaluate all of the positives and negatives of its presence and location. If you still want it gone, perhaps think about armouring up and translocating the nest rather than burning or poisoning the whole colony.

A bit of knowledge can make all the difference in how you regard these amazing little critters!

3 thoughts on “Australian Paper Wasps in the Garden – another case of Knowledge is Power!”

  1. I had a nest about 30cm from the tap on the base of my water tank, they never attacked me using the tap. One day they moved out though.

    I remember hearing someone at the bee club say that a lot of people claim to be allergic to bees after being stung and getting a welt near the sting not knowing that this is the normal reaction to getting stung. Conversely, Macaulay Culkin died from a bee sting.

  2. Wow you have never been stung then … i got stung once and the bite hurt a lot but the second time (within weeks) i was bitten multiple times and although i treated myself in the same way i suffered an allergic reaction (that lasted for days and a sensitivity for weeks!) i do not want to risk a third. The nest was under a garden seat and not visible – certain sounds set it off it seemed – not the mower going close or putting things in the rubbish bin next to it but banging your shoes or sweeping within 6 metres did. I was like you all (benevolent) until this experience – unfortunately i need to kill them all we cannot coexist. They could swarm any visitors to the house who even just come to the front door. I will never look at wasps the same way now – i have a new understanding!!

    1. I have been stung… numerous times over the years. All from accidental proximity disturbances as you can expect from working in gardens. Because I am aware and observant, it happens very infrequently however. Accidents happen and people can have different physiological reactions to stings, bites and toxins. I’m saying that with good amounts of appropriate habitat, the likelihood of them nesting under a seat or other high risk location is far lower.
      If you are allergic to bees, does that mean you cannot coexist with the prime pollinators of a huge amount of our food plants? Fear-based decisions and behaviours are rarely the best way to operate if we have any hope of living truly sustainably.

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