Dramatic increase in number of wasp nest alerts in East Devon

Ian Simpson

Ian Simpson - Credit: Archant

Pest control experts are dealing with a dramatic surge in wasp numbers this year.

Wasp in riding jacket

Wasp in riding jacket - Credit: Archant

East Devon District Council has been called out to tackle three times as many nests as last year.

Ian Simpson, the council’s pest control technician, has had to add Saturdays to his schedule to deal with the sheer number of calls.

“I have never known a year like it for wasps’ nests. They are turning up in all sorts of places and every one I treat is different,” he said.

Recently, he had one in the sleeve of a riding jacket lying in a barn.

Ian Simpson

Ian Simpson - Credit: Archant

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Perhaps the biggest he’s ever come across was last year in an outside toilet.

Nests are usually about the size of a football but this one was a metre across. He never admits to being stung.

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Principal environmental health officer, Janet Wallace, said: “He’s working absolutely flat out to keep on top of the demand and deal with the dramatic increase.

“We can never really predict from year to year if it’s going to be a good or bad year. But this one is proving to be very busy indeed,” she said.

Last year for July there were 57 incidents. This year it was 168.

“We are surprised because we had the snow in March and a wet spring and we wondered whether the queen wasps would have survived the winter but they seem to have bred with a vengeance,” she said.

“And it may be related to the hot weather we’ve had this summer.”

The district council took back the running of their pest control services in 2014. They have just one technician for the area.

It costs £40 to treat a wasps’ nest and it’s usually dealt with in a single visit but if a second is necessary that is free.

Ian is also able to deal with nests reported in public areas on footpaths or near schools for free.

“The nests will be pretty firmly fixed to whatever they have been attached to but they are like tissue paper and don’t survive the winter,” Janet said.

An unusual level of wasp activity can be a sign of a nest in the vicinity. If the nest is small, wasp killer sprays can be purchased from garden centres.

It is not recommended to try to smoke them out due to the fire risk, and you should never poke a nest as it may aggravate the wasps and could cause them to swarm.

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