Expatica news

Buzzing Dutch terraces

We’ve all been there: after a whole week of working, or maybe just because the sun has finally come out, you want to sit out on a terrace and enjoy a nice cold beer or a glass of rosé. You’re nicely settled in, your drink has arrived, you bring the glass towards your mouth and … bzzzzz!

A wasp has settled itself on the rim of your glass and is determined to join the rest of its content. Flailing of arms, coasters on top of glasses, chain-smoking; nothing will deter vespula vulgaris. Or will it?

This year, the Netherlands is suffering from a real wasp plague. Exterminators around the country report twice as many requests for the removal of wasps’ nests. However, the big cities don’t seem to have been affected as much. Both Ratex exterminators from Amsterdam and ABR from Rotterdam confirm there has only been a slight increase in removal requests this summer.

Despite the recent downpours, the wasp season is far from over. Mieke Heetman of ABR: “When the weather is bad, the wasps don’t fly out as much, but as soon as the sun comes out, so do they.”

Hospitals have also noticed an increase in people coming in to get their wasp bites treated. About 5 people die of wasp sting allergy annually in the Netherlands.

Experts agree the wasp infestation is due to the mild winter and last year’s hot summer. Given the accelerating climate change, recently made official by the European Environment Agency, we might have to get used to a permanent increase in wasps.

Luckily, we are not alone in our fight against our stripy enemy. Companies have devised all kinds of methods to repel or kill wasps. And there are many things you can do yourself to keep the dreaded insect at bay.

A tried and tested method is to put ten crushed cloves in a saucer with some water. You can also pierce a lemon with a number of cloves. Apparently, wasps hate the smell and stay away. Tell the landlord of your favourite pub or always carry a bag of cloves with you just in case.

Smells are very important to wasps, especially in the second half of the summer. They love sweet smells, so avoid perfumes. More difficult to achieve in the height of summer is to avoid sweating and the use of suntan lotion, two sure wasp attractants.

However, scents can also be used to repel the insects. Apart from the aforementioned cloves, this reporter came across advice to use incense or essential oils of camphor, mint, rosemary, bergamot, lemongrass, citronella, thyme and – apparently very effective – spice wood (Dutch: zuiveringshout).

Wasps love bright colours – they think you’re a lovely big flower – and, surprisingly, also black, so keep your summer wardrobe plain and light-coloured, no matter what the fashion gurus say.

If you can’t repel the wasp, you might want to try to lure it away by placing wasp traps at a safe distance. These traps, special glass jars to be filled with syrup or other sweet substances, are for sale at garden centres and household stores.

But maybe these ‘soft’ methods don’t appeal to you and you’re looking for something more definite? In that case you might want to try your local Blokker or Marskramer to see if they have any ‘hand-held zappers’ left.

These electronic fly swatters, shaped like a small tennis racket, electrocute any insect on contact. Wasp zapping competitions could become the latest craze, replacing badminton as most popular garden and camp site activity.

Not yet seen in the Netherlands, but definitely for sale in the US, are insect vacuum zappers, powerful dust busters with zapping option – you can also choose to release the trapped insect somewhere else after catching it.

It is inadvisable to tamper in any way with a wasps’ nest in or around your own home or garden. It is well worth spending some money (EUR 30 or more) to get a professional exterminator to remove the nest. Look in the Yellow pages under ‘Ongediertebestrijding’ or check out the exterminators’ umbrella organisations AVO and NVO.

You might want to reconsider these rigorous methods, however, when you realise that wasps, apart from being absolute pests, are actually very useful little creatures.

The horticultural and agricultural sectors would suffer severe losses if there weren’t wasps and bees to pollinate the crops. Needless to say crops are vital to our own survival. Wasps also target other insects and are as such a pest control in themselves.

In August and September, wasps show a marked change in behaviour. Their building and nesting activities have by then been completed and at the end of their lives they develop a craving for sweets.

By the middle of September some types of wasps already start to give up the ghost and none except the impregnated queens will survive the winter.

So, next time you see some wasps dancing around your rosé, remember it is their farewell party and they too like a buzzing terrace.


26 August 2004

[Copyright Expatica 2004]

Subject: Life in Holland and wasps