'Exciting' battle with car-sized wasp nest

By Lindy Laird

Several campers had been stung by wasps from the Mini car-sized nest hanging about 7m off the ground in a puriri tree.
Several campers had been stung by wasps from the Mini car-sized nest hanging about 7m off the ground in a puriri tree.

A man who has been wiping out wasp nests for 20 years has just dealt with the biggest he's ever seen - the size of a Mini car, hanging 7m off the ground in a Northland puriri tree.

The giant German wasp nest was on Department of Conservation land on Whangaruru Harbour's north head, about 1km from DoC's Puriri Bay Campsite. Pest control technician Brandon Smith, who destroyed the nest last week, said it possibly housed a million angry wasps.

Several large pieces had broken off at some stage and been recolonised, which meant Mr Smith had to tackle four big nests on the ground before he could move on to the main event.

"They did go into attack mode as soon as I got near them," he said.

"They were really going for it. It got quite exciting."

He wore two sets of overalls under his protective gear for the job he describes as his most unforgettable yet. He had an extension ladder to climb up to the high nest and pumped poisonous powder through a 3-metre long pipe with a flexible hose at the end which could get into the nest's entrance "galleries".

The Puriri Bay camping ground manager, Andrew Simpson, helped him and was there as a safety precaution as well. Several campers had been stung over the summer although the giant nest was some distance from the camp and the network of tracks.

It was found by a regular camper, a retired Northland man, who had noticed a lot of wasps in the area and followed their flight path until eventually he was led to the tree nest.

Mr Smith and his wife Cheryl Smith own Northpest, an insect and rodent control company which eradicates about 10 German wasp nests a week.

The nests are often set in the ground or on banks, and they can also get very big.

"Do not tackle German wasp nests on your own," he said.

"And forget the old stories about how to get rid of them. For instance, blow torches and petrol don't work. I've met a lot of old farmers with singed eyebrows."

Mr Smith said there are usually about four nests near each other. Northland's volcanic rock, soil structure and abundance of foliage provided ideal living conditions for insects, including cockroaches and ants, he said.

"We're in a sub-tropical climate. A lot of people don't like living with insects but other than keeping them out of our homes and getting rid of dangerous ones, we just have to accept they're around."

Mr Smith said Mini-sized nests like last week's one might turn up only once every 20 years or so.

- NZ Herald

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