A bad year for wasps in Victoria — mouse, rat infestation to come

This long, dry summer has been a hothouse for wasps, which are spoiling picnics and burrowing into homes well into September.

For people with allergies, the problem can be much more serious.

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On July 30, a 60-year-old Sooke man collapsed and died after being stung in a parking lot. The coroner said it was uncertain whether a wasp or bee was responsible, but that the man had a history of allergies.

According to Healthlink B.C., which operates a hotline for medical information, calls regarding insect stings were up between 34 and 77 per cent this year. Page visits to its website for information on insect stings showed similar increases.

“Anecdotally, I’ve heard there were a lot more stings this year,” said Chris Morrow, site chief of emergency medicine at Royal Jubilee and Victoria General hospitals.

He said pharmacies and frontline workers tend to more stings than emergency rooms but cautioned anyone stung to pay close attention.

It is normal for the area around a sting to become red, swollen, sore and itchy, he said.

A dangerous reaction triggers a rash all over, shortness of breath and light-headedness, Morrow said. “Then you need to call an ambulance or get an EpiPen.”

Also, remove the stinger.

“It’s important to know that if you’ve had a bad reaction once, the next one can be much worse,” he said.

Chris Frederick at Victoria Pest Detective said calls for wasp problems have increased dramatically this year.

“This is the worst I’ve seen in 25 years,” he said. “They’re going for berries, grease on barbecues, anything.”

He said wasps tend to get aggressive only when swatted or disturbed. He cautioned children heading back to school grounds untouched for a few months or golfers near dense bush to take care.

At a Metchosin home infested with mud wasps, Pest Detective technician Adrian Maddaloni sprayed a synthetic chrysanthemum pesticide into a crevice and recalled his most-dramatic wasp encounter of the summer.

“It was the day of that thunder and lightning storm,” he said.

“I looked up at the side of this house in Esquimalt and it was all nests — angry wasps. I could hear them hitting my helmet, trying to sting me.”

Mike Kennish of Pest Scene Investigation also encountered a few nasty wasp situations this summer.

In one case, wasps chewed through the drywall of a house from the attic, came into a bedroom through a hole in the wall and stung the owner.

“There have been a phenomenal number of wasp calls this summer, and no hesitation from homeowners to hire us on the spot,” he said.

Kennish also credits the dry, warm summer for the proliferation, but said Greater Victoria’s worst pest problem this year is yet to come.

“It’s going to be horrific for mice and rats,” which have been breeding in the heat and will move indoors when the cold hits, Kennish said.

spetrescu@timescolonist.com

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