We recently ran a Q&A session on stinging and biting insects with leading parenting website, Mumsnet. The top two pests on every’s minds were ants and wasps. Because of the early warm spring wasp activity started sooner than usual, which means that by now nests have been getting large and bothersome for some people.
There were lots of questions about ants too. A couple of weeks ago we reported that this year has been a bumper year for ants and flying ants and they really have been proving to be a pest, particularly when they invade your home.
Here’s some wasp and ant questions answered:
Q. I’m pretty sure we have a wasps’ nest under our house in an airbrick, as there are a lot of them coming and going. They aren’t in a place where they bother us, and I am pretty averse to killing things unnecessarily. I like the fact that they kill other insects and we’re not allergic to stings. So, is there any reason why it’s a bad idea to just leave it alone, as long as we’re careful, given that they won’t use it again?
A. It’s conceivable they might use it again, it depends how much room there is. If they are not causing you a problem, they are not pests (to you). Feel free to leave them alone.
Q. What on earth are wasps for? Do they serve any useful purpose in the overall scheme of things?
Wasps are predatory insects; they perform a similar role to other predatory insects (including dragonflies, ladybirds and hoverflies). Remove wasps from an ecosystem and you would see a rise in the insects they feed on. They are pretty important beneficial insects in agriculture as they feed on a number of crop pests.
Q. We are going camping in August and I’m dreading it – any tips for keeping them away – does a jam jar really work?
Good hygiene is the basis of good pest control, so make sure that all litter is tidied away quickly and kept in a sealed bag. Clean up any spillages promptly too. Jars of sweetened water will hold a visiting wasp’s attention, although jar traps work best when the wasp can’t work out how to get out again. You can buy jar traps with narrow necks or make your own.
Q. We keep getting 2 or 3 odd ants in the conservatory and into the lounge. Is this because they smell food? What are they doing? Exploring for the main bunch?
Q. Last night I noticed lots of big flying ants in the kitchen and realised they were coming out from under the fridge. On pulling it put out I found about 2 inch deep sand piled up to the skirting boards. We shovelled it out and didn’t find many more ants so perhaps not the nest itself? The ants appear to be nesting under the patio directly outside the kitchen but we can’t see where they are coming in despite watching them for quite a while. Is this activity likely to damage our house and why are they leaving piles of sand in our kitchen?
A. Garden ant nests can remain active for well over five years. Digging up the nest is an effective non-chemical way of dealing with it, provided you can get to it. It’s impossible to a make a building ‘ant-proof’ so you will always find one or two ants looking for food. Try putting down some double-sided tape on the floor where you suspect they are coming in. They should get stuck and you might find some appropriate places to improve proofing or apply baits.
For more information about why ants fly en masse and why they turn soil into powder, visit our flying ants blog.
Thanks to everyone who contributed to the Q&A session at Mumset. You can still join the forum discussion here.