In France, wasps are having a great summer. Here’s why

Uninvited guests have been crashing barbeques and picnics all over France this summer. They are small, noisy and have no respect for the rules when it comes to social distancing.

It would be unusual in any summer to be able to avoid the dreaded wasp completely, but 2020 has – by all accounts – been particularly bad in France.

Pest control firms report getting as many as 30% more calls about wasps nests in gardens, which can double in size in just ten days if not dealt with.

A spokesman for pest control company SOSGuêpes38 told Euronews that “very mild winter” and a sunny spring allowed “many queens to survive”, boosting overall numbers of wasps.

All that, of course, was combined with the aftereffects of the coronavirus lockdown that enabled the wasps to proliferate freely in the parks and gardens.

Wasp populations are not routinely monitored in France, but the numbers of their more dangerous cousins, hornets, are and can be used to demonstrate how quickly wasp numbers are growing.

The southeast-central French region of Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, reported 71 hornet nests found this year – twice as many as last summer.

So how do you deal with wasps?

The SOSGuêpes38 spokesman recommends that those who encounter wasps “move away from them, without jiggling”.

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Unsurprisingly, he also advises those who locate a wasp nest in their garden or yard not to try and deal with it themselves.

“The consequences can quickly become very serious,” he said.

What, exactly, is the point of wasps?

They may seem simply put on earth to ruin an alfresco meal with friends or family, but as predators wasps play a key ecological role by controlling the numbers of greenfly or caterpillars.

They also pollinate flowers, to a lesser extent to their better-known cousins, bees.

Lastly, wasps serve as food for other species out there enjoying the French summer – namely birds.

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