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European wasp now its own worst enemy

19 Dec 2018

European wasp queen

In a mainland Australian-first, the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) plans to enlist European wasps to kill European wasps after gaining a special permit to control the pests in local orchards, vineyards and berry farms.

NSW DPI entomologist, Peter Gillespie, said the pilot project (PDF, 129.35 KB) in Orange aims to use the wasps’ natural behaviour to manage their populations in areas where they cause problems for workers, tourists and the community.

“European wasps are attracted to meat and sweet food making them a real nuisance near cellar doors and vineyards at harvest when berry sugar is high,” Mr Gillespie said.

“The pilot control project will use sardine-based cat food as a bait to attract wasps using an EnvironSafe™ fly trap.

“A special permit from the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority allows the use of an insecticide, non-repellent fipronil, in the baited traps.

“Once wasps are feeding regularly, a specified amount of non-repellent fipronil is added to the bait.

“The dosage of insecticide has been calculated so the worker wasp will die when it returns to the nest then other wasps, including the queen, will cannibalise the dead wasp and ingest fiprinol.

“We advise to allow three days to a week for the entire nest to be eliminated.”

Orange viticulturist, James Sweetapple, said the new control permit for European wasps is a major win for local vineyards and orchards.

“This NSW DPI initiative will significantly reduce the risk and improve safety for our workers who are susceptible to wasp stings at vintage when they are picking ripe fruit,” Mr Sweetapple said.

“A European wasp sting is very painful and their presence in the vineyard is very intimidating to workers.”

In his role as event coordinator for Orange’s premium tourist event, Forage, Mr Sweetapple said the ability to manage the wasps will benefit the whole community.

“We’re looking forward to enjoying al fresco events and pleasurable picnics without the interference of European wasps,” he said. The European wasp management pilot (PDF, 129.35 KB) was funded through the NSW DPI Viticulture Skills Development Program 2014-2019.

We can arrange interviews and vision of the European wasp pilot management trial.

Media contact: Bernadette York 0427 773 785