Weather Forecast


Wasps’ last gasp: Stinging insects fiercer in waning days of summer

Wasps are all over. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)

By Kevin Bonham / Grand Forks Herald

Local hardware shopkeepers have been busy as bees the past few weeks keeping shelves stocked with sprays and other projects to kill or trap wasps, yellow jackets, hornets or bees.

“It’s probably a little worse than last year,” said Ron Corcoran, assistant manager of Burggraf’s Ace Hardware in Grand Forks. “They’re more aggressive right now. They’re a little uptight because they’re running out of pollen. The trees aren’t producing as much.”

Yellow jackets are more aggressive during August and September and more likely to sting people, according to Janet Knodel, NDSU Extension entomologist.

Hornets (or yellow jackets) belong to the family Vespidae. All yellow jackets sting and their stinging behavior is considered a defensive reaction when the colony is threatened, she said. They can sting more than once because their stinger stays with the insect.

“Although yellow jackets are actually a beneficial insect feeding on other insects, they often become a pest problem when nests are located near homes, schools, picnic areas or playgrounds,” she said in a news release. “Pest control is often warranted.”

And that’s what’s keeping Corcoran and Brandon Buckalew, manager of Hardware Hank in East Grand Forks, on the go these days.

However, their top-selling products differ on the two sides of the river. That’s because North Dakota restricts the sales of products that contain permethrin, a manmade insecticide with a chemical structure based on natural pyrethrum.

Corcoran said the dust products have been unavailable since early 2012.

“That stuff was nice,” Corcoran said.

The biggest sellers in the Grand Forks store are traps that use liquid to attract the flying insects, as well as sprays.

In East Grand Forks, however, sales of the permethrin dusting products have skyrocketed in the last couple of years, according to Buckalew.

“We’ve been able to keep it on the shelves,” he said. “We get a shipment in every week.”

Active time

The flying, stinging insects have been pretty active in the Red River Valley since about the third week of August, according to Knodel.

Some years are better — or worse — than others.

“They’re more active when it’s warm in the fall, when it’s hotter and dry,” she said. “I think this year is going to be comparable to last year.”

Brian Bohlman, owner of Bohlman Pest Control, Grand Forks, said while last year was busy, a better year for comparison might be 2006.

“Yes, I’ve been busy,” he said. “It’s mostly bees. Of the 18 calls I had on Monday, 14 were for yellow jackets.”

Mondays and Fridays are his busiest days.

“Everybody wants it done just before the weekend, or they notice the problem on a weekend,” he said.

Backyard enthusiasts may not have to put up with yellow jackets or other flying insects too much longer, however. The season ends with a good, hard frost.

“It’s kind of a short season that they get this aggressive,” Knodel said.

In the meantime, she said, “If you don’t bother them, they won’t bother you.”

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