Wasps in Gerringong are eating native caterpillars: local beekeeper

INVASION ALERT: Dr Michael Hindmarsh of Rose Valley concerned to find Chinese paper wasps and part of their nest in Belinda Street, Gerringong. Picture: Rebecca Fist
INVASION ALERT: Dr Michael Hindmarsh of Rose Valley concerned to find Chinese paper wasps and part of their nest in Belinda Street, Gerringong. Picture: Rebecca Fist

An invasive wasp species has descended on Gerringong, posing a threat to butterflies – the most crucial pollinators aside from bees.

Months ago, Rose Valley resident and beekeeper Dr Michael Hindmarsh noticed unusual looking wasps in Belinda Street. More recently, he was led to one of their nests, and identified them as Chinese paper wasps.

“I was getting a haircut in Gerringong, and I heard a voice from under one of the dome hair dryers, ‘Michael, I’ve found your wasps,’” Dr Hindmarsh said.

“The queen lives opposite the new Caltex petrol station.

“They’re slim and delicate and fly along with their legs hanging out, like they’re coming in to land. They were circling a white cedar covered with black grubs.”

He soon realised the wasps, which have been sighted along a 600m stretch, were feeding off caterpillars.

“The greatest shock is not the repeatable stings but the direct threat to our subtropical rainforest butterflies,” Dr Hindmarsh said.

“The baby larva start on nectar from flowers and graduate to ‘protein shakes’.”

This is the second reported case of Chinese paper wasps in the Kiama Municipality – the first was north of Jamberoo.

Concerned about the wasps’ impact on the local ecosystem, Dr Hindmarsh contacted the NSW Department of Primary Industries.

He said the DPI was busy combating a crazy ants outbreak in Lismore, and unable to address the wasp infestation.

“I am disappointed with their response, a total team effort is required to protect our blessed environment against this menace,” Dr Hindmarsh said.

On Friday, the Kiama Independent asked the DPI if the Chinese paper wasps in town were on its agenda. 

The DPI did not respond prior to deadline.

Dr Hindmarsh has also informed Kiama Council via Mayor Mark Honey about the wasps.

In response his concerns, council’s environment and health manager Paul Czulowski conducted a site visit. No wasps were seen, however Mr Czulowski reported the resident’s siting to the NSW Local Land Services, who coordinate the Illawarra Pest Management Committee, and other nearby councils.