We asked the Insectarium's Dr. Julia Mlynarek when these f**king wasps will finally go away.
If you've left home at all this summer — especially while carrying something sweet — chances are you've been harassed by buzzing, flying, stinging, black-and-yellow insects. While wasps are regularly a nuisance during the summer in Montreal, they've made their presence known this season, leaving some Quebecers wondering: Are there more wasps than usual this year?
We asked Dr. Julia Mlynarek, an entomologist at Montreal's Insectarium, what she thinks. She also gave us hacks for fighting off wasps and insight into when we'll finally be rid of the darned things... at least until next season.
Are there ACTUALLY more wasps than usual this year?
According to Dr. Mlynarek, we don't know if there are more wasps in the region compared to previous years. But she said there are definitely more wasps now than there were at the beginning of the summer.
"The queen wasps come out in the spring, and they start creating their nest. As the summer progresses, the population within the nest, [...] the colony, [...] increases in size. So by the end of the summer, we have a lot more wasps than we did at the beginning," she explained.
She said peak time for wasps is around mid-August, leading up to "now-ish."
Only new queens survive the winter by hiding, while the rest of the colony dies out. As new queens search for their winter homes, and the hives begin to close down, "all the worker wasps are kind of vagrants, flying around [...] out of work, so we notice more of them," Dr. Mlynarek said.
What are some hacks for fighting off wasps?
Dr. Mlynarek's biggest piece of advice is actually not to fight off wasps at all.
"The best thing to do is just to leave it alone as much as possible. They'll buzz around you a bit, but they'll quickly lose interest," she said. "If you start waving your arms around, then the wasp thinks, 'Oh, there might be something interesting there.'"
In other words: stay calm. You can stand still, she said, or if you're walking just continue walking.
If you have something with a sweet smell, like a cup of juice, Dr. Mlynarek suggests covering it with a coaster or a piece of paper because it's attracting the wasps to it.
If you're sitting on a terrasse or in your backyard, Dr. Mlynarek said you can either buy wasp traps or put a bowl of juice some distance away from you so they'll go toward that more than they'll go toward you.
When will the darned things finally go away?
"Once the temperature starts cooling down, there'll be fewer and fewer wasps because the old workers from the beginning of the summer will start dying off [...] and the newer workers that were born mid-summer will start becoming less active," she said.
"By the first frost, all the wasps should be gone."
In the meantime, Dr. Mlynarek said you can find relief from the wasps at night or on cooler days.
"They stay in their nest and keep warm. Like all of us in the winter, we kind of want to stay bundled in our beds if we can," said Dr. Mlynarek. She also noted that wasps are diurnal, meaning they're active mainly during the daytime.
But the more you learn about wasps, the less you might hate them. You might even — gasp! — come to appreciate them. While they can sting you, Dr. Mlynarek said this is only dangerous if you're allergic.
"They're pollinators [...] and they're also predators. They eat a lot of pests and other insects that could be detrimental," said Dr. Mlynarek. "Wasps are really important for ecosystems."
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