European wasps are the major pests

WATCH OUT: Sugars and proteins are favourite sites for wasps to check out. This European wasp is enjoying some leftover dogs’ bones.

IT wasn’t more than a few weeks ago we had wasps joining us for lunch on the patio, causing diners to swipe and swat as they tried to avoid getting stung, and trying to eat in a civilised fashion.

There are apparently a couple of thousand different species of these critters in Australia, but our companions were most likely black and yellow European wasps – which sting – or brown native ones, which don’t.

Manager of Live Exhibits at the Victorian Museum, Patrick Honan, said they have been in Victoria since about the 1970s, with populations that fluctuate with the ambient environmental conditions.

Wasp nests grow from a queen to form large colonies, which sometimes comprise a million or more individuals, although an average sized colony can have around 30,000 wasps.

Each winter there is a considerable die-off of colony members; in Europe very few survive the harsh winters, but in Australia something like 10 per cent make it through.

Queens which hatch in autumn survive the (Australian) winter by hibernating, as they will die if the weather is too cold.

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