Canning fruit or tomatoes always brings them around—the German wasps can’t resist the sweet/tart smell of chutney, tomato sauce, or apples. And of course, their numbers are highest in late summer/early autumn when we’re doing lots of canning.
Today, they flitted around the kitchen most of the afternoon, licking up applesauce from the benchtops, and generally being a nuisance.
German wasps are opportunistic feeders—they’ll eat most anything, from fruit, to dead animals, to live insects. In the house, they not only go for whatever’s cooking on the stove, but they catch houseflies in mid-air, chomping them messily on the windowsills and leaving cast off fly legs and wings all over the place.
Though they are a nuisance indoors, and can prove deadly to people like me, with allergies to their stings, they do their worst damage in our native forests where they rampage like a pack of hungry teenage boys.
As flexible scavengers whose numbers can grow to an estimated 10,000 wasps per hectare in beech forest, their impact can be devastating. They compete for food with native birds, lizards, and bats. They also eat native insects and even baby birds.
Almost every year, we have a wasp nest somewhere on the property. I haven’t found this year’s yet, though by the number of wasps enjoying my applesauce today, I know there’s a nest somewhere nearby. When I find it, I’ll destroy it—from an environmental perspective, and from a personal safety perspective it needs to be done.
But I admit I will do so with a twinge of guilt. Troublesome as they are, I have great respect for wasps. These beautiful animals are the ultimate efficient eating machine. They are no-nonsense foragers who go out and get the job done so well that they’ve been able to invade diverse habitats throughout the world. I may not like the consequences of that, but I can admire an animal flexible enough to thrive almost anywhere.