Generally speaking bugs aren’t a major issue for birds. Birds are largely protected by their feathers, which make it significantly less likely for them to be stung or bitten by a bug. There are some exceptions to this though. I’ve written before about my encounters with a parasitic fly – the Hippoboscidae Fly. Another exception would be mosquitoes that might be carrying diseases (especially if you keep a species of bird with exposed facial skin such as a macaw).
Then there are the bugs that target a bird’s food. Ants and fruit flies are probably the most common irritants. There is another though, which has been giving me an exceptional amount of trouble for the last month or so. Today I am sharing my hatred for the European Wasp and how I’m dealing with them. Many of you may know this particular creature by other names. I know in other countries they are known as Yellow Jackets or German Wasps. Their scientific name is Vespula germanica.
European wasps are native to Europe, North Africa and temperate Asia. Technically they shouldn’t be in Australia but they were first recorded in Tasmania in 1959 and the mainland in 1977. Apparently they like to stowaway in human modes of transport – so it is likely they got here by accident via boat or plane. All attempts to eradicate them in Australia have failed and been abandoned. They are here to stay.
Ok, so who cares? It’s a wasp not a bird. Birds have feathers and shouldn’t really be affected by them – right? I’d agree if I were only referring to one or two of them. In this particular instance though, I’m referring to tens of thousands of them coming into my yard on a daily basis and from what I’ve seen around Victoria lately, I’m not the only one in my state who is dealing with this right now. This sort of issue can happen anywhere in the world if someone has a nest nearby, or (as in my case) if you happen to live in an area that has these wasps in plague proportions (so the nest isn’t necessarily close).
The European winter actually kills off these wasps. Only the queen survives to start things going again as the weather warms up. That isn’t the case here in Australia. Here the worker wasps can survive our warmer version of winter, so suddenly the nest isn’t starting from one individual each year. A nest can be starting with a new queen and thousands of workers. Consider the additional problem that the natural predators and parasites are not present here – suddenly you have nests that can house 100,000 worker wasps. Therefore the best way to get rid of them is to locate and get rid of the nest. That isn’t always possible though.
European wasps are extremely aggressive. They will act to protect their nest and any food source that they have taken possession of. Their stings do not have barbs, so they are able to sting a victim repeatedly without risk of a barb being caught in a victim’s skin. They also have the ability to release a pheromone into the air, effectively marking anyone who disturbs their nest or them in order to attract other wasps to help attack/protect the nest. So if you upset one wasp by swatting it away from a lorikeet’s food bowl, suddenly you’re being swooped by many. Unfortunately, I’m saying that from experience. I have been battling wasps who have been guarding my aviaries and refusing to let my birds eat.
I have tried and failed to locate a nest on my property. Nests are most commonly a hole in the ground. According to research, after feeding, wasps tend to travel in a straight line back to their nest, which should allow you to follow them. Personally, I’ve found that after feeding wasps tend to fly as though they are drunk, which isn’t shocking considering that I’ve been watching them after they have eaten fermented rotting fruit. I don’t think the wasps around here have any idea what a straight line is. So instead I’ve combed every inch of ground around my house – no nest.
The main trick to keeping wasps away seems to be cleanliness. I’ve removed every scrap of fallen fruit from under my fruit trees. I’ve added more cleaning to an already frequent cage-cleaning schedule in order to accommodate my galahs’ tendency to throw food at anything that moves. Keeping wasps out of food bowls has been my main challenge. It seems wasps adore lorikeet wet food. Even though the weather is getting cooler here, I’ve continued with a summer feeding pattern. Smaller portions delivered with more frequency, so that it isn’t left sitting there for long. If I’ve been out for the day, I try to feed wet foods later (after wasps have already found their main food sources for the day).
Bug spray is out of the question around birds unless it’s a permethrin spray (usually used for mites). Those sprays aren’t strong enough to be quickly effective and bluntly killing all the worker wasps is just too big a job for one person. The queens are producing more workers as fast as I can kill them. I have been swinging an electrified tennis racket around to zap the more persistent ones though. There have been days when wasps have been guarding my lorikeets so ferociously, that the tennis racket is the only thing that has allowed me to get near enough to evacuate the birds.
On the extraordinarily bad days when the wasps are swarming over everything I have resorted to nailing a bucket to my rear fence and dropping fruit in it to attract them. At least this seems to attract/focus them in one area. This also has the added benefit of allowing me to cover the entrance/exit of the bucket with my electrified racket in order to make a dint in their numbers). Similarly, I have friends that have tried similar commercially available traps who haven’t had much success. Killing worker wasps just doesn’t solve the issue.
The real solution to wasp problems is to find and eradicate any nearby nests but when you can’t do that… keep an eye on the impact they’re having on your birds. It is just possible that a weight loss is due to a bird being unable to access its food bowl because of these evil creatures! If that’s the case, you need to take steps to ensure your bird can still access its food.
Mel Vincent works as an animal rehabilitator out of Australia.
Cleanliness is very much required to keep these wasps and bugs away. Chemical spray should be avoided as much as possible.
Go to U tube and look up yellow jacket traps and you will find several designs that you can make at home and will help kill the nest.
I had a nasty experience with an undiscovered wasps nest over summer – I hit it with a weed eater and got stung by about 10 of the nasty things on the back of my legs. That hurt and took a week or two to settle down and the rashes to disappear. I have never had the problem as bad as described here, but have located and killed several wasp nests around my property over the years. I live on a hill side though and its easy to track the wasps when they are around my house and they all make a bee line (I guess it is a wasp line) for the nest in the ground, particularly late in the evening, which makes it easier to track. The solution to my stinging wasps was petrol in the nest. I’ve tried wasp killer and fly spray, but none were as effective as the petrol down the hole. Gone over night. But you do need to locate the nest.
Yellow jackets also will build a nest in the eves of your house I had one in my attic about 14″ × 30″ that i had to wait after dark and pry up the lip boards over the gutter 30’ off the ground. the only way i found them was i was on the roof to clean the gutter and when I stepped hard near them they came screaming out. they go dormant at night so that’s the time to get them. I had a neighbor that had a nest next to a storm drain that was probably three times the size of mine (about six or seven chunks of nest the size of basket balls that a beekeeper removed with a vacuum he was actually was able to capture the queen.
I have a suggestion, we have whats called Bee-Free Natural Wasp Deterrent, they are fake hornet nests you hang around your home, or where you don’t want them to nest, apparently they will not nest where there is already a nest, (or fake one in this case) here is a l ink and some information. Beee-Free decoy wasp nest makes territorial wasps believe that the area is already occupied by other wasps Deterring wasps for up to 200 feet and works successfully on yellow jackets Offers a safe and completely effective alternative to other more costly and harmful pest control products Beee-Free is a unique and innovative solution to one of summer’s peskiest problems http://www.canadiantire.ca/browse/product_detail.jsp;jsessionid=R16b4d5ncvT1LBGQy9XZnnywNJ2Gd9XPnf213tGnWjB4T91nt17W!1696988648?PRODUCT%3C%3Eprd_id=845524443303418&bmUID=1367325211630 not sure if you have anything like this down your way, its worth a try,
Hi Mel, when looking for the nest look up as well, sometimes the nests can be up a bank, in the eaves of the house or neighbors houses, in boughs or in hollows in trees, they are not always in the ground.
Hi To get rid of bees when they start looking for a new nest site, I paint the outside of my bird nest with Jeyes Fluid (Carbolic Acid Coefficient 4 to6 Black coal tar tipe disinfectant) It must be painted where your birds can not get to it or where it do not get in their food or water. The tar smell drive the bees off. Gideon Swart George South Africa
Try using garlic water. Info is online.
Looking for solutions for fruit flys in the summer. I have an African Grey, his cage is inside, but I like to keep the windows open when the air conditioner is not on. Everytime I walk pass his cage I see a cluster if fruit flys around his food. Looking for a safe way to rid them from around his cage. Thanking anyone in advance.
I’m not sure if this is the same species of wasp as we have here in Canada, but you can buy fake wasp nests to put up (http://www.leevalley.com/en/garden/page.aspx?p=56120&cat=2,40725,45454). The wasps we have here are territorial, and if they see another nest, they stay away… Hope this can help you!
Have you tried putting wasp lures with lorikeet food out in the yard away from the birds? I have not used them with the number of wasps you have but they do work and they are bird safe. They look like large glass gourds (the smaller ones did not work as well for us). They have a small hole in the bottom which allows the wasp to enter. The top is stoppered so the wasps do not leave since they fly up to get out.
This tip works like a charm and is a great way to recycle plastic bags. 1. Fill a small to medium brown paper bag with 3 or 4 plastic bags (crumple the plastic bags). 2. Tie the top of the paper bag with string or twine, leaving enough string to hang up. Hang the filled bag just below the eaves, outside of bird cages, or wherever wasps, hornets or yellow jackets hang out. The wasps think it’s a nest and will not fly near it. It works on a very simple principle: wasps avoid the nests of other wasps. By giving the appearance of a real wasp nest, any nearby wasps will keep their distance, commonly about 20’ or further. I am happy to report that I have been wasp, hornet, and yellow jacket free for years.
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