Sunday, 21 July 2013

Who, what, why: Where are all the wasps?

It's summer, the sun is shining across the UK, but there don't seem to be many wasps around. Why?

Summer has finally arrived and people have decamped to gardens, beaches and parks en masse. But something seems to be missing this year. By July people are usually swatting wasps away from picnics, barbecues and ice creams at an annoying rate.

Wasps usually start appearing in the UK around the beginning of May, depending on the species. So why are there so few of them around?

Numbers are low so far this year because of a huge decline in the wasp population in 2012, say experts. That drop was the result of fluctuating temperatures earlier in the year.

No quantitative data is available for wasp numbers in the UK. Unlike butterflies and bees, there is no official recording scheme, but many experts working in the fields of entomology, biodiversity and conservation say numbers appear to be significantly down.

The answer
A warm spell in February 2012 brought queens out of hibernation early. Many then died when the weather got cold again.

Fewer colonies were established resulting in fewer wasps this year so far

An unseasonal spell of good weather in late February last year is being blamed. It resulted in mated queen wasps coming out of hibernation early, experts say. Temperatures soon dropped again and many of them died because of a lack of food.

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