This wasp and yellowjacket season is possibly the worst ever in Edmonton, city says

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Health Matters July 20: With wasp populations thriving, more people are feeling the pain. As Su-Ling Goh reports, some species' stings may cause more severe reactions – Jul 20, 2021

While the hot, dry weather means fewer pests like mosquitoes in Edmonton this year, it has also created ideal conditions for the worst year for wasps and yellowjackets the city has ever seen.

While the City of Edmonton doesn’t have exact data on how many of the pests the region sees each year, pest management coordinator Mike Jenkins says no one can remember a season with more calls to deal with nests on city property.

“Typically around this time of year, we would do maybe about a dozen or so a week. Now we’re doing 20 to 50 per day.”

Jenkins said the nests are getting large, and the wasps and yellowjackets are sending out queens to build new nests.

Read more: Hot, dry weather means fewer mosquitoes in Edmonton but more yellowjackets and ants

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The good news? While the numbers of wasps and yellowjackets have increased, the insects themselves are not any more aggressive than they normally would be.

But they will be more defensive and more likely to sting later in the season.

“(When) they’re demoted to guard duty and they’re kind of falling apart and they’re on their last legs, they are much more likely to sting,” Jenkins said. “It’s one last thing they can do for the species and for the hive to just make sure that everything is afraid of yellowjackets and doesn’t go after them.”

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Edmontonians seeing lots of wasps this summer – Jul 30, 2018

While the peak for these pests is usually mid- to late August, Jenkins said we can expect the populations to continue to grow until at least the first frost.

If you’re on City of Edmonton property and spot a nest, you can call 311 to have it dealt with.

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Avoiding confrontation with pests

Wasps and yellowjackets are typically attracted to things like sugary drinks and protein. To keep them from ruining your picnic, Jenkins recommends making sure lids are on things like pop bottles and there isn’t too much food left out for too long.

Read more: How to avoid wasp stings as insect becomes more aggressive

Alternatively, you can create the insects their own little picnic.

“Put some sugary drinks and maybe protein source off on the other end of the yard and then the yellow jackets will go there where there’s no other people milling around and causing them distress,” Jenkins said.

“They’ll use that resource, tell their friends about it, and stay over on their own picnic rather than coming to the main picnic itself.”

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If you find a nest on your property, Jenkins recommends getting rid of it because of the potential for stinging. If you’re comfortable with it, he recommends getting some remedies from home stores. It may also be a good idea to hire a professional to come in and remove the nest, especially if its under pavement steps or the front step.

If you or a family member are stung, wash the area with soap and water and apply a cold pack. Keep the area as clean as possible and apply a bandage if desired.

Read more: ‘It’s extremely busy’: Calgary sees spike in wasp calls in August

For a pet, the Veterinary Centres of America recommends making a thick paste of baking soda and water and applying it to the area. If there are multiple sting sites, try a soothing oatmeal bath.

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After that, apply an ice pack for 10 minutes to help with swelling.

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