A European nature question

Sep 4th, 2005, 05:07 AM
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A European nature question

As we were being tortured by yellowjackets the other day while having lunch at a sidewalk cafe here at home, I got wondering why they don't seem to have these buggers in Europe? Or do they? My understanding is that most of the species we have here are a non-native insect, from Europe!
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Sep 4th, 2005, 05:37 AM
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I'd never heard of yellowjackets before, so I did a search. Apparently it's some sort of wasp and we certainly have plenty of those all over Europe in the summer months I couldn't work out though, whether all wasps are known as yellowjackets in the US, or just a certain variety?
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Sep 4th, 2005, 06:18 AM
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Yellowjackets are a specific variety - rumored to be especially mean.
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Sep 4th, 2005, 06:37 AM
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Wasps get very nasty in the Autumn.
The workers die as soon as it gets cold and seem determined to take a human or two with them.
They also feed on rotting fermented fruit.
A drunken vindictive wasp is no joke.
You can see an illustration at http://www.uknature.co.uk/wasps.html
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Sep 4th, 2005, 07:46 AM
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In France and Belgium, we would see guepes, a type of wasp/hornet that looks pretty much like a yellowjacket. They usually are not that bad. We get something similar time to time here in the UK's Thames Valley. But we never (thank God!) get the kind of yellowjack nuisance that we had in Pennsylvania. I feel your pain. I remember the summer of 1995 in PA, it was virtually impossible to have a picnic or outdoor get together before dark.
Europeans don't know how lucky they are--I think yellowjackets outnumber their European equivalent by 10 to 1 (and yellowjackets are a lot more aggressive, too).
In the Lehigh Valley, where I grew up, it was standard practice that if you were having an outdoor party, you would put an warm, juicy half watermelon in the far corner of the yard and hope the yellowjackets would hang out there. Didn't always help, though.
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Sep 4th, 2005, 10:43 AM
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It always amazes me in Europe that there are no screens on the windows.
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Sep 4th, 2005, 11:21 AM
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Yellow jackets are called guêpes in French, and I can assure you that they exist.
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Sep 4th, 2005, 11:48 AM
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I've told this story here before, but a friend's sister was having a villa (actualy 3) renovated in Northern Italy. (She is American) She insisted that the windonws be fitted for screens. The worker replied "how will the flies get out?"
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Sep 4th, 2005, 12:09 PM
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I see screens on a few houses in Europe, but they are also custom made and pretty fiddly to fit, nothing like what you'd pick up at Home Depot and install in 20 minutes. We watched a Dutch home improvement show where the carpenter made a sliding screen door for his home. It took him hours and his neighbors couldn't understand why he'd want such a thing.

I've gone several times to Batibouw, the largest home show in Europe (it's held every March in Brussels) and you could find *anything* you could possibly think of for a home--except widow screens.

I miss window screens. It's not so much the yellowjackets as idiot confused bumblebees that blunder in and can't figure how to get out. And at night, it's the moths and crane flies that come in attracted by the light. Not to mention mosquitoes.

European guepes are far fewer in number than American yellowjackets and have always seemed less aggressive (they're not polite like honeybees, but they don't have the pure mean streak American yellowjackets have; they're not quite as persistent either).
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Sep 4th, 2005, 01:20 PM
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Grimm's Law: gu/v/w are all related, and the circumflex on a vowel indicates that somewhere along the line an 's' has gone missing: so 'wasp', 'wespe', 'vespa' and 'guêpe' are all essentially the same word. But how they relate to specific breeds of insect - that's another matter.

The emphasis on 'yellow' lends a bit of weight to what I was always told as a child - "That one won't hurt you, it's got yellow stripes on black - it's the ones with black stripes on yellow you have to worry about". Well, it certainly kept me distracted trying to puzzle out which was which!


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Sep 4th, 2005, 01:38 PM
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LOL Patrick, it seems by the time you'd get close enough to determine which was which, it would be too late!
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Sep 4th, 2005, 02:01 PM
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Sandi, "how will the flies get out?" OMG, I love it!!!! LOL. That one I will have to share with all my Italian family and friends. Only in Italy!
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Sep 5th, 2005, 12:02 AM
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They have screens in Puglia (southern Italy) which fills me with forboding.

I'd rather have the odd stray moth here in my home in London than have to cover my windows with mesh.
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Sep 5th, 2005, 12:18 AM
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my gardening career was short lived. I used to live in downtown boston and had a happy little thriving window box- then, i moved to the burbs outside of philly; had a lovely english style garden. i went out one day to weed and got stung by 14 bees. i am now back to city type living and don't even have a window box; just the plant the neighbors left when they went back north this spring.
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Sep 5th, 2005, 01:37 AM
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In my house in Switzerland, we have windows that "tip", meaning just the top tips into the room a bit but it's not completely open. I also have a non-fitted fly screen on my door. They are quite the rage now because they do help keep the bugs out.

I wish they would put more fly screens on windows and doors too.

Anyway, whenever I go on vacation, I usually bring a fly swatter with me. I hate having mosquitoes wake me in the middle of the night!

And to kill any wasps....their season should be starting soon now.
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Sep 5th, 2005, 02:01 AM
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I don't have screens either, but all year I've only had one fly coming into the house.
I remember houseflies being a nuisance when I was a child, but there seem to be far fewer around these days. Perhaps we dispose of household waste in a different way nowadays.
The RSPB was doing a survey, asking people to put sticky patches on their cars to see how many they trap. Shortage of flies can be a bad thing for birds.
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Sep 5th, 2005, 03:15 AM
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There is no shortage of flies in Australia which is probably why we have so many birds! NO house in Australia would be built without screens for windows and doors. The flies would drive you mad, and the mosquitoes would eat you alive! I have enjoyed all my trips to Europe where the biggest insect problem I had was stopping the wasps from getting into my drink. I learned to do the European thing, and put the coaster on top of the glass! It remains a puzzle to me why flies are such a problem in Australia, but not in Europe.
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Sep 5th, 2005, 03:33 AM
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Obviously the descendants of transported convict flies, adeben...
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Sep 5th, 2005, 03:41 AM
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adeben, maybe because your temperatures don't go down too much. the flies start to die in october usually, and there are none before april-may. they don't have too much time to reproduce. but it is just a supposition ;-)
I live in a village near Dijon and I have almost no flies (but I destroyed a wasp nest in june) but my friends living in the same village but near a horse yard, have plenty (and no window screen!) farm animals attract them.
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Sep 5th, 2005, 04:28 AM
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Actually, I wondered if it was something to do with Australian flies having a short life? Certainly they seemed to be a real nuisance out in the central desert (presumably sweaty humans have the best supplies of moisture available) but not particularly in cooler cities with a more European climate. In the UK, it's a rare event when insects become a mass nuisance (the Great Ladybird Invasion of about 20 years ago was definitely a one-off) - but the most common instance is flying ants in humid stormy weather, and I don't think they have much of a life if that's the only time we see them.
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