Adrian Baggaley who gardens near Nottingham gives some tips on controlling wasps
On a scale of one to ten, the slug and the wasp must vie for pole position as the gardener’s top pest, one being the bane of the vegetable gardener and the other that of the fruit grower. Slugs can be controlled by night-time forays with a bucket and torch, or by strategically placed boards or slates which provide temporary lodgings until collected. The wasp is a different problem for the fruit gardener; not many people are prepared to pick up a wasp. My approach to controlling wasps is to swat, spray and catch them in the traditional wasp trap – jam jars with a hole in the lid and partly filled with jam and water or, my preference, Ribena and jam. This combination of approaches works well.
Last year wasps were observed attacking my moderate cherry crop on 20 July, although their numbers were very small. Wasp traps were already in place, but seemed largely ineffective; the jam jar under the tree was totally ignored. To supplement my usual three pronged attack, I had invested in two super-duper wasp traps costing £25 each and a much cheaper one for £10. The two upmarket ones looked not unlike a vertical version of the Starship Enterprise and came complete with bait. The supplier of these traps was unable to tell me what the bait was, since his supplier refused to tell him. On assembling the two traps I was naturally curious about the bait. Its smell reminded me slightly of partly fermented fruit juice, something that I am familiar with after making country wines for several years.
The new traps did not prove particularly successful for wasps, but in a year which was plagued by flies, especially green-bottles, the traps worked well. They were also successful at exterminating the local population of a type of cinnamon coloured moth. If the traps are to be used again then the entry holes require reducing to exclude the moths. The cheaper trap was barely successful: the bait being Ribena and water, it attracted green-bottles and moths. Although there were not vast numbers of wasps about, I felt that I should be catching many more.
My Excalibur plum tree had a phenomenal crop of fully flavoured plums, but unfortunately due to continual rain the whole crop cracked. This was a bonanza time for the hive bees and wasps, which allowed me to monitor the fruit-eating wasp population. Any wasps not quick enough to fly off were swatted. The ones that got away were then the ones to trap, for after all I cannot spend all day swatting around a plum tree.
My thoughts turned to the nature of the bait in the other traps and whether it was partially fermented fruit juice. I had some in the freezer in the form of grape juice stored in freezer bags inside old fruit juice containers. This was defrosted and put in the cheaper trap. The trap was inspected two days later and it was full of wasps – in fact so many wasps that newcomers could not get a look in. From then on the wasps were under control and during the winter I stored away all left-over fruit juices from my wine-making activities with apples, pears and gages. Success in 2007 needed to start early!
Anyone with sympathies towards wasps will no doubt enjoy the following story. In last May one extremely large queen wasp was reconnoitering the inside of the Wimbledon Box – my large fruit cage, so called because I put it up over Wimbledon week. Closing the door, fly swat in hand, climbing to the top of the structure, I swatted this enormous wasp. It promptly dropped to the cross-span on which my wrist was resting. Crawling under my wrist, she first bit me and then stung me – ouch! Rounds two and three to the wasp were very painful.