Watch out for European wasps

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Wasps that feed on human food and drinks are behaviours unique to European wasps and should be reported to the department. Pictures: DPIRD

THE City of Wanneroo is one of the local government areas where residents are being asked to look out for destructive European wasps and help locate their nests.

But residents are warned not to attempt to uncover European wasp nests and instead to call the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD)

Earlier this month DPIRD started its annual campaign to detect, locate and destroy European wasps that invade Western Australia.

Department pest and disease information service supervisor Catherine Webb said the European wasp was a declared pest in WA due to its potential to flourish and impact on horticultural industries, outdoor lifestyles and the health of people, pets and livestock.

“Summer presents the best opportunity to detect the pests as the wasps leave the nest to scavenge food, driving them into our yards, recreational areas and traps,” she said.

“The European wasp has distinct behaviours among wasp species and other insects in Western Australia, which make it easy to identify.

“Wasps that feed on meat, fruit, human food and drinks, pet food and insects, or wasps with their legs raised during flight, are behaviours unique to European wasps and should be reported to the department.

“Most European wasp nests are built hidden underground, so wasps that fly in and out of a single hole in the ground should also be treated as suspicious.”

The annual campaign combines surveillance and trapping in the highest risk areas, serving as an early warning system to detect wasps, which are established interstate and overseas.

Other local government areas to be targeted over the 2018/19 season include Kalamunda, Gosnells, Mundaring, Swan, Cockburn, Belmont, Canning and Victoria Park, in addition to the regional towns of Australind and Hyden.

Fertilised queens can make their way into Western Australia on vehicles and in freight and cargo, then disperse and lay low, hidden, while they build their nest containing thousands of worker wasps.

The department’s efforts are complemented by other government agencies, volunteer community members and community groups that assist with trapping throughout the state to detect the wasps.

Ms Webb said when European wasp reports were confirmed, department officers were brought in to locate and destroy the nest.

European wasps build 90 per cent of their nests underground, so wasps that fly in and out of a single hole in the ground should be treated as suspicious and reported to the department.

“A collaborative approach has proven to be most effective for managing the declared wasp in Western Australia, successfully preventing the pest from establishing since the European wasp surveillance and eradication began 41 years ago.

“Last season’s program resulted in 130 nests being destroyed – the highest on record and given European wasps are also gaining ground in many Australian states and territories, another difficult season is anticipated.

“To report suspect European wasps to the department, simply describe what you saw, where you saw it and how it happened, and include a photo of the wasps, if it is safe to photograph them.” Reports can be made online at mypestguide.agric.wa.gov.au by using the MyPestGuideTM Reporter app or by contacting the pest and disease information service on 9368 3080 or email padis@dpird.wa.gov.au