Wasps and people

Wasps have been living around humans for a long time, though in some Asian countries such as Hong Kong and Singapore, due to the high percentage of people living in urban areas, contact with wasps isn't that frequent. Nevertheless, contact with them is inevitable, and many times stories are published on attacks by wasps and are so exaggerated that people fear them greatly. It is true that unpleasant encounters do occur. However, the reasons for these are because of their natural behaviour. Therefore, we must try to understand them better to know why they react in certain ways and how we can avoid conflict with them in their natural habitat.

To give an example of how wasps may affect people, I recall some instances of what they may actually do.
I have been attacked by a few different species of Polistine wasps (paper wasps) on many occasions, and also once by a nest of Vespa tropica (greater banded hornet). I also had a barbecue outing in Hong Kong ruined by numerous Vespa bicolor (common wasps) which swarmed to honey and raw meat. However, when I look back, in most of these cases, it was something I did that provoked them to attack, and all these could have been prevented if I wasn't so careless.

The reason for the attacks, in the case of the Polistine species, was getting too close to the nest to try photographing or watching them (once I foolishly touched the outer surface of a Polistes olivaceus nest and suffered for it!) And as for the Vespa tropica, I carelessly kicked a clump of wood while walking through a forested area, even though I should have known better, that these stones and logs often hide the nest of this frequently subterranean species!

The above instances illustrate how wasps may be an annoyance or danger to people. The threat is mainly from stirring up a nest and being attacked by a swarm, however, in many countries they also cause many problems at picnics or barbecues as they swarm to our food.

Wasps are never out to look for people to attack and harm. When they attack, it is always because they feel that their nest is being threatened, and therefore they are doing all they can to protect their nest. Many times, it is because people, deliberately or otherwise, disturbed the nest.

So how should we avoid conflict with wasps? Obviously,a simple way would be to avoid disturbing a nest. However,this is not as easy as it sounds as sometimes nests may not be noticeable or may be near human habitation. Here are some ways to prevent conflict with wasps:

So when is it necessary to destroy a wasp nest? In my opinion this should be done only when it poses a serious threat to people, such as a nest situated in a school, in a home, on or outside a window that is always open, or regularly opened and closed. Nests outside a window that is never open do not pose a threat, as it is unlikely that any wasps will enter the house from another side, and even if one does, it will not attack people under these circumstances.

Destroying of a nest should not be attempted if you are not absolutely sure of what to do; call professionals or public services. In other countries, such as the USA and some countries in Europe such as Germany, people often relocate a nest. I hope to see people learning how to do this and carrying it out more often in Asian countries, as whatever problems wasps bring, in the natural habitat they are essential to the ecosystem.

During a picnic or barbecue, always cover food unless it is ready to be eaten, cooked or used. Honey,especially,should be covered and none spilled, as the smell attracts wasps. Also,clear bottles should be used for drinking and covered when not in use, as wasps can get into empty drink cans and pose a serious threat if they sting a person in the mouth.

With all these measures taken, wasps need not pose a threat to humans. I hope people will realise, from this website and others, why wasps behave the way they do and how to avoid conflict with them.

What should one do if unfortunate enough to be attacked? Find out here!
Or read this for a rough guide on how to prevent wasps from nesting near homes, and how to determine if a nest poses a real danger.
Back to previous