I have mentioned my dislike of wasps before, and it is about now that they can become extra annoying when you are eating or drinking outside. They just love to buzz about your burger, land on your ice cream, or take a dip in your pint.

Some people aren’t too bothered, and calmly bat them away, while others scream, throw their chairs back and flee as if pursued by hungry lions. Although wasps are more likely to sting than bees, they are still only supposed to do that when they feel threatened.

They are extremely territorial about their nests, and if they deem anyone or anything to be a danger to it, they will attack, so it’s best to steer well clear if you come across one. I used to think it was an old wive’s tale that if you kill a wasp, its mates will come to take revenge, but in fact it is sort of true. A squished wasp emits a pheromone that alerts its comrades nearby who rush to the scene to leap into defensive action.

One summer years ago we were staying at a holiday cottage where wasps had made a nest under the roof. My youngest son was playing in the garden when I noticed one flying around him. It was not in a good mood, even though my son, a toddler then, was well away from its nest and oblivious to it. The wasp was circling him like a predator and before I could intervene, it swooped in at lightning speed to sting him. My poor boy was shocked and distressed at the sudden piercing pain in his arm.

So that is why I don’t like wasps. They sting, sometimes for unforeseen reasons, sometimes multiple times, and it really hurts! Why this irritated wee beastie thought my little boy was dangerous still baffles me. Thankfully, though, my now 21-year-old has no memory of it.

There are those who will defend this polarising insect though. I was visiting a house in the country and got talking to a gentleman about wasps and my natural dislike of them. He insisted they got a bad press and went on to explain why they behave like they do in late summer.

The wasps that annoy us, he said, are often worker wasps and they are a bit Jekyll and Hyde. For the first half of the year, they are the benign Dr Jekyll, their job being to maintain the nest and provide food for the growing colony. In these early days of summer, insects and grubs are plentiful, and the busy wasp is too preoccupied finding enough protein to feed the ever-hungry brood. They give us humans and our food a wide berth because they can easily find what they need elsewhere.

Once the colony is established, however, they are no longer of use and are cast out like a layer of surplus middle management. Suddenly they are homeless, and food supplies are running thin. Competition with other redundant hungry wasps is fierce and in a desperate bid to survive, they will take whatever they need wherever they can find it. At this time of year, they crave sugar, and our penchant for al-fresco dining provides them with an oasis of sweetness in an otherwise barren landscape.

On the positive side, wasps are excellent pollinators for our fruits, flowers and crops, and also extremely efficient at pest control. Some sources I’ve read say that if it wasn’t for the wasp, we would be overrun with destructive insets that would make our lives misery.

Knowing this did make me sympathise a little with their plight. But I can’t say it makes me like them much more.

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