===A Pesky Problem===
We have a lot of fruit trees in our garden. When we returned from holiday, in early August, I was dismayed to see hundreds of wasps buzzing aggressively round our plum tree - surprising because there were no plums on it! I watched to see where the wasps were going to and from, only to find that many of them were entering under some roof tiles at the front of the house via a small opening in the lead flashing. We called out a company to deal with this - I won't go into details as it's not that relevant - and this problem was quickly dealt with. Unfortunately the wasp problem as a whole was not.
Having already been stung while working in the garden, well away from what I thought was the wasps' 'space', I was concerned that a significant number were still visiting the tree. It's very close to the greenhouse and I have to go in there regularly to water the tomato plants. The problem seemed to be that the tree was infested with an aphid build-up caused by the hot weather, and the wasps were either eating them or the sweet honeydew they exude. I couldn't spray because of the proximity to the greenhouse and I'm growing the tomatoes organically.
===Help At Hand===
My elderly father is becoming increasingly allergic to wasp stings. Someone had bought him one of these traps as a gift and, bless him, he brought it down for us to try. I was extremely sceptical when I first saw it, especially as I thought the wasps would easily get out again. But, nothing ventured, nothing gained, as they say. So I read the instructions - very brief - before giving it a go.
The trap is simple in design: a hollow plastic container, shaped like a beehive, with a screw-on cap at the top and a rim running round the inside at the bottom. A hole at the top holds the hanging wire. A small card is attached, giving information and instructions which are short and to the point. No waffle here! Well it's a simple enough product, but a simple girl like me sometimes needs a bit more help than that to work things out. I'm not blessed with great problem solving skills.
It's as simple as filling the inner rim with an appropriate bait - something sugary - so I opted to make a thin syrup by diluting ordinary sugar in boiling water and letting it cool. I've also used a bit of syrup from stem ginger, diluted. You could also use fruit juice, and it's apparently worth experimenting with different ones to see which is best for your area or different seasonal stages. My husband pinched a bit of our son's favourite Smoothie - the wasps like it, too!
The instructions are not very clear about filling, but we have found that the best way is to tip the container upside down, place a little liquid in the top - with the lid firmly in place - and then turning it right way up. The bait pours down the container sides into the rim. Not much is needed. I've found it far easier to do the filling as close to the place in which the trap is going to be sited as possible. You are advised to locate it at least 10 metres from the wasps' activity area, but for the plum tree this was difficult. I ended up putting it on top of the adjacent water butt and being very cautious around it. You can also hang the traps, as there's a hanging wire included, but I didn't think this would work. I set it up one evening and left it until next day.
I was very surprised to see at least 6 wasps in there when I returned. Some were swimming in the liquid, some flying up inside the trap but clearly unable to exit. I would have preferred a quicker end for the creatures, but they do seem to drown quite soon [ugh!] Over the next few days the whole rim became chocker block full. I was puzzling out with my husband how come the wasps can't get out, as there is nothing to stop them. We concluded that their natural instinct is to fly upwards, which takes them to the top of the trap. In a window, when they come down, usually they're sliding down it, and I think the same thing happens on the side of the trap. If they go down this, they end up in the rim and in big trouble!
My husband must have been impressed by the results. One day, having been out, I returned to discover he'd bought another one from a shop in town, and had hung it in an apple tree; the wasps had started to be a nuisance round it as the fruit ripened. I thought: this will be a real test, I bet it won't work as well when it's hanging. Well I'm wrong, because it's now every bit as full. Even in late September it's still trapping a few.
To empty the trap you just unscrew the cap and tip out the contents - keeping a watchful eye open for any wasps still alive. I found the best method of disposal was to dig a hole in the soil in a spot that wouldn't be dug for ages, and pouring the ghastly contents in.
===Reflections, Regrets & Recommendations===
I must say that I do regret feeling the need to take action like this. Wasps are not altogether bad; they play an important role in pollinating plants, especially early in the season. They also eat aphids and caterpillars in large quantities, so in that sense they are a gardener's friend. It's just later in the season, when their taste for sweet things predominates, that they seem to become aggressive and therefore a nuisance.
I also regret that, on emptying the traps, it became apparent that it is not only wasps that are caught. It was mainly flies, but also a few hoverflies and moths, though in nothing like the quantities of the wasps.
If you are plagued with wasps, I do recommend this. I'm agreeably surprised at how well it worked, despite by initial cynicism. I can't claim that it will completely solve the problem - if you have a nest you will probably need to take more drastic action - but this method significantly reduced wasp numbers in our garden over a month, and the two traps are still doing their stuff today. I'm surprising myself by awarding this 4 stars. I think you can probably get the traps from Amazon, and they come in different sizes I believe. The one we bought came from a store called Yorkshire Trading Company and cost £6.99.
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©Verbena, September 2013