Where the Hell are all these Wasps Coming From?

Where the Hell are all these Wasps Coming From?

Persuasive lecturer changes Critic’s opinion of wasps

Wasp populations are at their yearly high, and students have reported fear, frustration and an “absolute fuck-ton” of the stinging insects around town. Critic Te Arohi reached out to the Zoology Department to get to the bottom of this.

The short answer is simple: wasp colonies follow a yearly population cycle, and right now, the colonies are packed to the brim. By this time of year, there’s no more work for the worker wasps to complete, so they’re free to roam the town in search of sugary treats - and they’ve got a liking for booze. As Zoology lecturer Dr. Jenny Jandt put it, they’re essentially on summer break. This cycle is a normal yearly thing, and you’ll forget about them once winter hits and all the workers die.

While this explanation is fine, the long answer is far more interesting. Jenny, @TheWaspLady, gave Critic an extremely compelling hour-long explanation of why the creatures, while they may appear terrifying, at least deserve our respect. 

While she reluctantly admitted that yes, you are more likely to be stung by a wasp than a humble bumblebee, this has more to do with you than the wasp. As opposed to honeybees, for example, wasps are a bit more reckless with their exploration, meaning that “they are more likely to find themselves in a situation where you don’t know they’re there… and it’s really, really important to check your drink to make sure that nobody has crawled inside.” But aside from that, they’re not as aggressive as society has made them out to be. Often at the wrong place at the wrong time, they’ve simply gotten a bad rep, according to Jenny. She aims to correct this, mounting a social campaign to swing public opinion in favour of these maligned insects. 

Curious about their taste in booze, Jenny has been trying to run a study to see whether wasps could tell various wines, beers and sugary drinks apart. “But I could not figure out how to put, ‘We need a twelve pack of beer and a case of wine’ on a materials list for the University”, said Jenny, so the study couldn’t be run officially through Otago. She resorted to running her own study, with “some beers that I had left over from Crate Day.” While quickly admitting that it was a bit embarrassing to announce that she didn’t finish her crate, she was defiant: “Let’s be real, I’m not the only one [who had leftovers].” According to her back garden study, it seemed that wasps had a preference for beer over cider, but feel free to run your own tests.

Bees and wasps don’t sting everything they passively land on. However, if you are bombarded by a curious visitor while at the pub, “don’t swing your arms around and try to swat it”, said Jenny. “If you are stung, once you get over the initial shock and pain, you’ll realise that the wasp you just killed was just doing her thing, just looking out for her sisters.” When confronted, “it’s best to remain calm, zen-like”, and let them go about their business. “Handling wasps is actually really good for managing anxiety,” she explained. “It forces you to be really calm, really precise with your movements.” And if you follow those principles, she claimed, you can interact with wasps mostly worry-free. Her rule of thumb: “Bees don’t sting trees,” so be like trees. Also, “don't stick your head in a wasp nest. Because they will fly out and sting you. They're trying to defend the family, but you might not appreciate that as you're running from a bunch of wasps flying straight at you.” 

Critic began this piece looking to vent our anger against a hostile pest. But Jenny changed our mind, and made us realise the real hostile pest all along was the hateful prejudice we were harbouring against wasps. Also, she warned us at the start of the interview not to “make anything I say sound anti-wasp, because it’s not”, and the last thing Critic wants to do is piss off someone who may or may not have control over the local wasp population. 

Finally, if you have a resident nest, Jenny said that her students are occasionally looking to take nests in for research. You can reach them at the coolest official email of all time: wasp.nest@otago.ac.nz.

This article first appeared in Issue 1, 2022.
Posted 2:47pm Sunday 27th February 2022 by Fox Meyer.