European wasp trapping season begins

The Department of Agriculture and Food implemented the ‘Adopt-a-Trap’ initiative in 2011 to supplement its surveillance of the wasps which are widespread in the eastern states and regularly hitch a ride to WA on freight and cargo.

Department senior technical officer Marc Widmer said the surveillance program was important to help combat the accidental shipment of fertilised queen wasps to WA where they build new nests.

“Adopt-a-Trap is part of our ongoing surveillance and eradication program. We provide interested community members and groups with surveillance traps for them to install with an appropriate lure and check regularly,” Mr Widmer said.

“When a wasp is caught in a trap, the specimen or a photograph can be sent to the department for verification and if it’s confirmed to be a European wasp, the department will search for the nest and destroy it at no charge.

“The traps are designed to be placed out each year when wasps are most active, from about Christmas to Easter.”

The department’s European wasp program began in 1977 and has prevented the declared pest from establishing in WA.

Surveillance traps are an important part of that success. The department manages more than 550 surveillance traps and 475 traps have been adopted by the community, of which various local governments manage 120.

Mr Widmer said the European wasp was considered the world’s worst social wasp pest and had the potential to become a dangerous pest in Western Australia.

“The declared pest is a serious environmental and agricultural pest throughout the world, with large nests housing many thousands of wasps,” he said. “It also threatens Western Australia’s outdoor lifestyle, tourism, human health and the well-being of our pets.

“It is important we destroy all established European wasp nests each year to prevent the release of queens from mature nests, so the more traps deployed in the community, the better.

“The aim is to have more than 1000 surveillance traps adopted and registered on the adopt-a-trap grid, particularly in metropolitan Perth and high-risk regional areas such as Kalgoorlie, Albany, Geraldton and Bunbury.

“Existing adopt-a-trappers are asked to put their traps out in December and let us know that the trap is active through the Adopt-a-Trap page at www.agric.wa.gov.au by commenting in the ‘Inspections’ box. This will alert the department and avoid duplication of trapping efforts.”

European wasps look similar to the common paper wasp with bright yellow and black striped bodies, but are more bee-shaped with a black antennae.

Unlike paper wasps they don’t hover in flight and usually nest in the ground. They also feed on meat and protein products, which is why a small piece of raw fish is used as a lure in the traps.

Mr Widmer said it was difficult to predict what a season would bring until traps were deployed and monitored for activity.

Last season, 59 nests were found in the metropolitan area and destroyed by the department.

More information about European wasp trapping in WA is available on the department website.

People interested in adopting a trap, or who think they have spotted a European wasp, are asked to contact the department’s Pest and Disease Information Service (PaDIS) on freecall 1800 084 881.