common wasp

How very Vulgar

As we are now in the middle of the summer holiday season there are plenty of opportunities to use my word for the day, “vulgar”. What a delicious word. Just saying it makes my walrus moustache curl up and sends a quiver down my tusks. Defined as, “lacking sophistication or good taste”, the opportunities for its application are ubiquitous (that could be tomorrows word – it’s a pretty good one, eh?). The great hordes of English tourists that descend on certain Mediterranean resorts spring to mind; swigging down gallons of alcohol even before their plane has landed, copulating like rabbits, urinating in streets and so forth. The hapless locals in Spanish resorts certainly need our money, but they pay for it dearly. Don’t get me wrong, many Brits are great, but they are not the ones that get remembered.

Actually, the word vulgaris means “common” in Latin, which has nothing to do with sophistication or good taste. The common wasp, vespula vulgaris, is a little too common for my liking at present. The pesky yellow devils, so rarely seen earlier in the year, are being very vulgar indeed as August draws to a close.

I used to dislike wasps before I became a beekeeper, but now I understand their lifecycle and their place in nature, I am more accepting of them, whilst not exactly a fan. They do good work early in Summer when their diet is protein based – apparently they munch their way through a great number of crop pests, caterpillars and other insects; they feed this to their young larvae. In return the larvae secrete sugars which worker wasps consume, giving them the energy they need to fly out again. But once there are no larvae in the nest to provide sugars the worker wasps become desperate to satisfy their sweet tooth anyway they can. They start to become a pest to humans, hanging around beer gardens and fruit trees and children’s parties. But more bothersome still – they have a go at bee hives.

A big strong colony of bees is quite capable of dealing with wasps. I tend to reduce the hive entrance which gives them a smaller area to defend, but in the main wasps are not going to be a major concern to a strong colony. The Asian Hornet, vespa velutina, is a different matter entirely, but thankfully they have not established themselves in the UK as yet. They can destroy any colony of bees, no problem. That is a challenge of the future, but for now I have to deal with attacks by common wasps on my small “nucleus” colonies.

Last week I found that wasps had ganged up on my smallest weakest colony and were set on killing it. Luckily today I had a visitor to my apiary, Barbara, who has been learning about beekeeping and wanted to see how a walrus keeps bees. It was good fun showing her around, and she got a surprise when I gave her my weak colony to take away to her garden and, hopefully, away from wasps. They were going to die anyway, and may do still, but at least now they have a chance. And it also means there is now one more beekeeper in the world – hurrah!

I am soon to be joining my countrymen abroad as I travel to Mallorca, but I’m going to a quiet spot up in the hills, away from the masses. I’m an anti social odobenus. It’s for the best. I snore like, well, a walrus, and I can empty a pool simply by jumping in. And I don’t shut up about bees.

Now for a bed time cup of tea with honey. Good night.

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