Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The dreaded European Wasp

Brits often express to us that they fell great trepidation at the thought of living in a country like Oz where there are so many things that can bite or sting - even kill - you. The UK is a very tame country by comparison.

Well, there is an occasional adder (snake!). The other day a British kid actually got bitten on the toe by one - much to everyone's surprise, got on the National news, caused quite a kerfuffle!

In Australia we have heard of this European wasp, and it is feared - but mostly because it comes from outside Australia and is capable of damaging our fragile environment like all other introduced species.

Doing the dance

The other day I saw one of our esteemed administrators at the university doing a strange little dance as he came rushing out of his office. Apparently there have been quite a few stray wasps in the offices lately, probably encouraged by the warm weather and the presence of jam sandwiches and sweet drinks on peoples' desks ...

Well, this poor fellow experienced a wasp with a desire to meet him eyeball to eyeball, getting in behind his specs! A very good reason to dance about a bit. He wasn't stung.

Peter and I were talking about this, and saying that although we had heard the sting of the wasp can be very unpleasant, possibly dangerous?, we had never known personally of anyone who had suffered it.

Funny little balls

With classes being mostly finished, and the teachers' room being full of teachers wanting turns on the very few available computers, it was suggested that some of us may choose to work from home where we have our own computers.

Thus today Peter and I were at home and, noticing sunshine outside - the first we've seen in a week or more - I decided to take advantage of it and wash the sheets and hang them outside in the sunshine. What a luxury - we hardly ever even unlock the gate that gives us access to our tiny yard and washing line.

As I picked my way through the longish wet grass in my pink fluffy slippers, I noticed a few of these strange little balls. I thought at first that the neighbours' kids (not that our neighbours seem to have any kids) had lost their marbles or something. On closer inspection I determined that they were fruit, like some tiny plums.

We have a plum tree in our garden - ?

Well apparently that tree in the back right-hand corner is some kind of fruit tree. Nothing there now, though, just a few dried-up ones, and the few bird-pecked ones on the ground. Nothing to eat here, folks.

Curiosity killed the ...

I mentioned it to Peter who, curious as ever - especially when it comes to back gardens - went out to take a look. He found one, and picked it up ... much to the consternation of a wasp who - being disturbed in the middle of a meal - jumped out and stung him on the finger!

Well - what to do?

At that precise moment the gas and electricity metre man rang the doorbell, so after inviting him in we thought - here's a Brit, he'll know what to do. Nope.

I suggested ice, and supplied an ice cube to apply to the spot. We live over the road from a doctors' surgery, so Peter nipped across there for some further advice.

The reception staff at the surgery were most eager to help, but had no idea of what one should do in this situation. The nurse took Peter's blood pressure, which they found to be alarmingly high. Peter pointed out that bites and stings in Australia can be a life-and-death situation, so, besides the distress of being in considerable pain, he was naturally going to feel somewhat stressed overall.

His finger was swelling and getting stiff, and his armpit was sore. The doctor gave him a prescription for some antihistamines and steroids, and strict instructions to ring 999 if he started to have swelling in his lips or throat or had difficulty breathing.

So - that's what you do!

Important Information!

Our friends Crosby and Susanne wrote to us after reading this post, with some important information about wasp stings ...

We have just read your blog on wasps and thought you might need a little scaring!!
A friend of ours has been bitten, stung, whatever on 3 separate occasions. The first time he had a relatively mild reaction.. not as bad as Peter, 2nd time was probably a bit worse than Peter, but the 3rd time was actually life threatening.

He had been stung, and had not enjoyed it, but was basically of the mind that last time he survived so he would also ignore this one too. Besides they were having guests for dinner and he was cooking.

Not a good idea. We were out for the day when we got a phone call. His wife was rushing him to the hospital as he was struggling to breathe and getting worse. To cut a long story short he did survive.

Later his wife told us that they had been reprimanded for not calling an ambulance as it might have been too late. We were praying for him. He now has to carry a "pen" with him at all times in case of another bite as next time might be too late.

So the moral of this story is don't be complacent as the poison can sometimes be cumulative.

Organic Wasp trap

Fill a bucket with water add a couple tablespoons of detergent and either put it near their food source or supply your own ... we have used meat attached to the handle of the bucket. The wasps sit on water to eat or digest or wash or something. Normally they alight on the "skin" of the water, but the detergent breaks this skin and they drown.

No comments: