Have you noticed fewer butterflies fluttering around your garden this summer? That may be due to the spread of the invasive European Paper Wasp, which has recently made its way to California and Washington according to the Institute for the Study of Invasive Species (ISIS).
European Paper Wasps, often mistaken for hornets or yellow jackets because of their black slender bodies and yellow markings, are indigenous to southern Europe and Northern Africa. It is unclear how the species made its way to North America, but it was first sighted in Boston in the 1970’s. Since then it has been discovered in Colorado (2001), Utah (1995), Maine, Vermont, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan.
These wasps are generally docile—though they can sting—and are considered one of the most important natural pest controls in gardens as they feed mostly on caterpillars.
We are already seeing the reduced butterfly population in our own yards, but ISIS is predicting greater issues with the population to come; especially as the population continues to spread throughout the United States and the rest of North America. Although ISIS is not clear on what kind of consequence the population reduction may have.
How you can help: European Paper Wasps construct their nests from paper (hence the name) that they produce from chewed wood fibers. They obtain this wood from damaged fences and porches. One way to discourage them from nesting is to maintain any wood structures in your own yard. Getting rid of holes in walls and other suitable nesting areas is also advised.
Natural chemicals that are left in abandoned nests may also lure a new colony of European Paper Wasps to nest there. Washing abandoned nests with detergents will destroy the scents and discourage a new colony from re-entering your yard.
Though European Paper Wasps have been in North America for over forty years, it may be that nature has yet to see the damage of this invasive species.
Photo Credit: Flickr/ lostinfog