With huge increases in pest control callouts, it's shaping up to be a bumper year for wasps. But while wasps might not be the nation's favourite insects they are some of the most important. Scientists from the University of Gloucestershire and University College London are once again asking for the public's help to find out more about these misunderstood creatures.
This Bank Holiday Weekend the Big Wasp Survey is asking people to hang up homemade wasp traps and send in what they catch. Scientists will then sort through and identify wasps sent in from all over the country, allowing them to find out what species are living where.
With insects generally struggling, finding out the health of the nation's wasp population has never been more important.
As Big Wasp Survey scientist Dr Seirian Sumner, from University College London, said:
“Wasps are predators, pest controllers and pollinators – they are absolutely vital for a healthy ecosystem and they deserve our respect. We need to find out more about them!"
This year's Big Wasp Survey builds on the successes of last year's survey, which also took place over the August Bank Holiday Weekend. More than a thousand people sent in wasp trap contents from the length and breadth of the UK and allowed scientists at the University of Gloucestershire and UCL to build up remarkably detailed distribution maps.
In fact, their results, soon to be published, showed that just one year of public-assisted surveying was surprisingly effective, producing results similar to 40 years of expert surveying. With the support of the Royal Entomological Society and the UK public, The Big Wasp Survey will carry on this work to monitor populations and distributions from year to year.
Although the Big Wasp Survey does ask people to kill some wasps – a fact that attracted some criticism and controversy last year – the results from the 2017 survey confirmed that the fears expressed by some were unfounded.
In late August, colonies are coming to an end and the Big Wasp Survey captured no queens, the individuals that start new colonies the following year, at all. This means that taking part in the Big Wasp Survey will not have any effect on wasp populations.
There was also concern that the traps would catch other insects.
Professor Adam Hart, from the University of Gloucestershire said:
“We did catch a few flies and one or two beetles but otherwise these wasp traps catch wasps and very little else! And in collaboration with the Natural History Museum, London, we're in the process of identifying what little bycatch we got, providing yet more science from these simple back-garden traps."
If you would like to take part in the Big Wasp Survey, then visit the official website to register and to find out more.