Mosquitos and European Wasps

Mosquitos! Have they bothered you recently? They confused me this year; they were different – big, black, and stupid. I didn’t get bitten once. A couple of them landed on me briefly and tried to look threatening, wobbled about on super long legs and then flew clumsily off into the night. It could be that I’m too old and bony and they like something a little more interesting or more bloody.

Our local supermarket and chemist ran out of insect repellent products on the Friday the Folk Festival began as did shops in Castlemaine.

So what will come after the mozzies? Locust plagues are a common occurrence in some summers as crops start to ripen and dry off. For most of us the only inconvenience is the splattering of bodies on the car windscreen and front lights although clogging up the radiator can lead to the motor overheating. Attaching a commercial radiator grill protector thingy can be handy.

Put another Wasp on the Barbie

Wet conditions over recent months have raised the question whether to expect more or less European wasps this summer. One view is that heavy rains will have drowned the occupants of the ground-based nests. The opposing view suggests more moisture means more insect life, the main food source for wasps.

I remember 2014 being a bad year for wasps and having lunch with a smoker who insisted we sit outside in the café garden. I still carry this vision of her gently blowing the wasps from her Hungarian sausage focaccia between mouthfuls.

Many cafés suffered considerable financial losses that year as customers sitting outdoors whose jam and cream scones had suddenly become landing pads for wasps, tried to find seating inside but couldn’t. When they could not find refuge they left and some never returned. It seems that we can manage the odd single wasp but multiple beasties on our food is just too much to bear.

Reducing European wasp numbers is much discussed on-line so I won’t go into too much detail here. Sufficient to say that we should invest in wasp traps which you will find in the hardware shop and, importantly, we should set them early, even before you’ve spotted the first wasp. Theory has it that we can reduce the number of nests by catching the newly hatched queens in our traps before they establish nests.

Another theory that I have not tested is that when you see a wasp feeding, it is within 300 meters of its nest and when it flies away after feeding, it flies in direct a line as possible to its nest.

Our fun suggestion is that you feed small amounts of minced steak in sizeable pieces that the wasp can just carry causing it to fly more slowly. Get some kids to follow it if you don’t think you’re up to it. If they complain, tell them it is like a game of Pokémon Go only it’s all natural and really good for you. Come to think of it, there really should be a wasp tracker app for your smart phone.

When you find a nest, hope that it is on council land so that you can call the Shire office and ask that they come and remove it. More likely, it will be on your own or a neighbor’s property in which case, if you or they are not able or are disinclined to risk removing it, then you will need to contact a pest remover.

On a lighter note, frogs are the great beneficiaries of a wet year. I wonder if they are joyfully feeding on the mozzies? They certainly sound happy. Certainly the Grey Box and Ironbark forests which surrounds us has enjoyed the exceptional wet weather.

Chocolate lily and Mosquito

Alive with wildflowers. Dichopogon strictus (syn. Arthropodium strictum), commonly known as chocolate lily,

Whither the Weather?

All this talk of exceptional weather brings us to the fraught question of climate change. That the climate is changing is now much better understood and believed by ninety percent of the population. However, things we can do to help reduce it, are actions which most people refuse to implement or are simply unable to face.

We are told on good authority that we can now expect to experience 10 extreme heat days more than usual in most years. Add another 1 degree and that becomes 20 extra extreme hot days in most years. I wonder how much extreme weather we will endure before we change some of our lifestyle habits?

Environmental degradation around the world is happening at a very fast rate, much of it caused by industry but much more by you and me. We buy all the stuff that industry produces. Those smoke stacks and jet aircraft exhausts belong to us.

What are some of the lifestyle changes we can adopt to make a difference other than the obvious one of refusing to buy into the fashion products market?

I have three suggestions to get you started. 1. Reduce your red meat intake as much as you can, by 75% if possible. 2. Avoid air travel if at all possible. You probably don’t need to see the Mona Lisa, shop in Paris, sample a curry in Chandrapur or a burger in New York. 3. Vow that you will not replace your pet dog or cat when the current beloved fur ball passes on.

I still can’t get the image out of my head of watching 20 tons of pilchards being offloaded onto trucks in Eden and taken to the pet food factory up the road. Two boatloads a week the crane operator told me. That’s 40 tons a week 52 weeks of the year. And that is just one fishing port.

If that all seems a bit hard, wait until you get the power bill for the air conditioner or be unable to use water except for drinking.

Magic Folk Festival

Congratulations Maldon on the wonderful Folk Festival. The atmosphere was ever congenial and despite the mozzies, visitors I spoke to assured me that they would return again next year.

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