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All a-buzz over wasp numbers; wild inthe.

Byline: with LIAM CREEDON

WHAT is the point of a wasp? You could be forgiven for thinking the sole purpose of this small, striped menace is to bring minor terror to beer gardens, barbecues and picnics across the length and breadth of the UK.

Indifferent to desperate hand wafts and wailing, the sight of irate adults karate chopping at thin air has become a reassuringly timeless image of the British summertime.

Indeed, after the fly, the wasp is surely our most disliked insect. We can forgive the bee for stinging as it has the good grace to expire shortly afterwards. But being a one-hit-wonder is not for the wasp. They can sting and sting and sting.

As summer drifts into autumn there seems to be far more in evidence than in previous years too. Newspapers have carried frenzied articles warning of wasp plagues and of family pets cheating death after suffering relentless wasp attacks. But is there any truth behind the salacious headlines? Not really, no. Stuart Roberts, chairman of the Bees Wasps and Ants Recording Society (BWARS), explains: "The public should rest assured that there is no plague of wasps this year but certainly there are quite a few of them around.

"Late summer and early autumn is the peak season for wasps as their colonies build in numbers, but the first frosts in October or November will see wasp numbers reduce."

Wasps are members of the hymenoptera family, a vast and rambling group including bees and ants.

There are many wasp incarnations but the suspects that cause us such consternation are the social wasps with their distinctive black and yellow livery and insatiable love of sugar.

The UK boasts around eight species of social wasp, the most widespread are the Common and the German wasps.

In the last 30 years our native wasps have been joined by two new colonists - the Median wasp and the Saxon wasp from the Continent.

So much for wasp welfare though, what about ours? Wasp stings are surprisingly painful and, for a tiny percentage of the population who are allergic, they can prove life-threatening.

Wasp experts say there are several simple steps to avoid being stung.

Firstly, don't panic. If a wasp does land on you wait for it to fly off or brush it with a piece of paper - not your hand.

Try not to squish them as the dying wasp will release pheromones that will attract others intent

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A Median wasp, right, has joined the UK's other social wasps
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Publication:Daily Post (Conwy, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Sep 14, 2013
Words:420
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