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This article was published 18/8/2021 (312 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Try to eat a burger on a patio and before long, hooligans in yellow jackets will attack you and try to steal your grub. Wasp season has arrived in Winnipeg early this year, bumped up by hot and dry weather perfect for the pests.
"They’re horrifying. The worst ever," said Rhea Collison, general manager at Bar Italia on Corydon Avenue. Customers have become frustrated and moved inside or even left, she said. After a year-and-a-half of pandemic restrictions that brutalized the restaurant industry, losing paying customers to wasps is the last thing she said she needs.
"It’s like insult to injury at this point," she said.
Bar Italia has had to take extra measures this year to deal with the insects, she said.
It has paid exterminators to spray all around the building and a former employee to pressure wash and soak the ground around the patio to kill any burrowed between cracks in the cement. Traps have been hung all around.
Collison said it’s helped to keep wasps away as much as possible but doubts there’s any Winnipeg patio fully exempt from the tiny terrors.
Joe Loschiavo, owner of Pasquale's Italian Ristorante on Marion Street, said wasps have started to buzz about his patio in recent days, too. He’s also strung up traps to divert the wasps away from diners. He’s taken to covering litres of wine with napkins and elastic, and he’s considering setting up fans on the patio to disrupt the insects' flight.
But Loschiavo also worries the wasps will cut into his business.
"It’s unfortunate because you’re going to get one more week, or a couple more weeks, of this summer, but it’s something that we deal with," he said.
“It’s unfortunate because you’re going to get one more week, or a couple more weeks, of this summer, but it’s something that we deal with.” – Joe Loschiavo, owner of Pasquale's Italian Ristorante
Wasps don’t only eat out, of course. They’ll gladly take a home-cooked meal or a sugary drink in anyone’s backyard. But if homeowners are looking to kill the wasps themselves, they might have a hard time.
Garden centres around the city are nearly completely out of wasp spray. Of all that were open and answered a call, only Jensen Nursery & Garden Centre said it had any left in stock.
Ray Dubois, owner of Ron Paul Garden Centre, said the wasp-killing spray flew off his shelves so quickly he didn’t notice it being sold.
"The team told me it’s all out and I said, ‘How can that be? We had, like, a million cases,’" he said.
When he asked if they’d ordered to replenish the stock, he was told the supplier was out of stock, too.
For Dubois, this wasn’t a big surprise.
"It’s been two years of this, since COVID started," he said. With manufacturing shutdowns, delivery delays and other hiccups, Dubois said getting product in has been difficult.
"It’s almost not shocking anymore. Before it was, and now you just accept mediocrity, as weird as that sounds," he said.
Dubois said he has a shipment of wasp spray on the way, but he had to search all the way to the East Coast to find it.
The high demand and low supply have created a "perfect storm" for a shortage of wasp spray, said Dubois.
That’s had people shifting to other wasp-control methods. The garden centre has also sold out of Waspinators, a faux wasps’ nest designed to trick the insects into thinking the territory is already taken.
The centre, and many others, did still have traps in stock, however.
City of Winnipeg superintendent of insect control Ken Nawolsky said his team has removed about 70 nests from city property already this year. That’s more than double what he’d expect to see by mid-August.
This year, they’ve come out earlier and in greater numbers, he said. And frankly, their behaviour is unruly.
"They’re being more aggressive in looking for food, being much more noticeable around people and people are getting stung," he said.
To deter wasps, Nawolsky suggests covering up food and drinks, avoiding perfumes or colognes, and setting up traps away from sitting areas.
Swatting at wasps can cause them to become more aggressive, so it’s best to let them come and go, he said. It can also trigger them to release a pheromone that lets other wasps know it’s in trouble — and that could mean reinforcements of yellowjackets ready to sting.
Wasps’ stingers are not barbed, like bees', and they can sting repeatedly, he said. It’s best to call professional exterminators to deal with wasps’ nests — which are either made of a papery substance or are burrows underground — but if homeowners insist on doing it themselves, Nawolsky suggests doing it at night, after the sun has been down for about 30 minutes. This will ensure most wasps have returned home and are in the nest.
Cody Sellar is the reporter/photographer for the Free Press Community Review West. He is a lifelong Winnipegger. He is a journalist, writer, sleuth, sloth, reader of books and lover of terse biographies. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at 204-697-7206.