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LIVING IN AUSTRIA

How to avoid wasps this summer in Austria

Milder winters and springs mean that we could see more wasps around this summer. Here is what you need to know.

wasp flower bee austria
The number of wasps is increasing in Switzerland (Photo by Daniele Barison on Unsplash)

If you feel like you are never alone anymore – because there is always a pesky little wasp around – and that the number of nests has grown significantly this summer, this might actually be the case.

As the planet gets hotter and winters and springs have milder temperatures, there are more wasps than usual buzzing around Europe this summer.

In France, pest control companies are even calling 2022 the “year of the wasp”, as The Local France reported.

For the first time in 100 years, the mammoth wasp (Megascolia maculata), which is the largest species in Europe, was found in Austria in recent years, according to the nature protection association Naturschutzbund. The wasp is usually found in the Mediterranean but has been spotted in Vienna and Lower Austria too.

READ ALSO: Why Vienna is a haven for wild animals – and where you can find them

The warmer weather over winter means fewer wasp colonies are lost to the cold, resulting in faster reproduction rates.

They can be annoying and even scary with a not entirely deserved reputation of being aggressive.

However, these animals are also very important to the ecosystem. They pollinate flowers, eat other insects and are themselves food for other animals, especially birds, mice, and badgers.

Are wasps protected in Austria?

They are, but the specific rules depend on each state.

In most, they are protected as “free-living animals”, so killing or disturbing them without reason is discouraged.

Though fines are rare (unlike in neighbouring Germany), a first offence could be met with a “lesson from a nature or mountain warden who would explain the usefulness of the animals”, Johannes Gepp, head of the Naturschutzbund Steiermark, said.

Of course, it will also depend on each case. In 2018, for example, a man was sentenced to a year in prison and ordered to pay more than €20,000 after using a powerful insecticide and killing 50 colonies of bees.

Are they dangerous? How can I protect myself and my family?

Biologists and nature activists remind people that wasps are not dangerous per se. They are not aggressive and will tend to flee unless they feel threatened.

It would also take at least 50 to 100 stings to actually overdose on a wasp venom, but severe allergies and accidents (while running away from a swarm, for example) are more dangerous.

The best way to protect yourself is prevention – avoid attracting the wasps.

READ ALSO: How to deal with fruit flies plaguing your Austrian flat

Naturschutzbund says that since wasps are primarily attracted to meat and sweets, these foods should be covered well. Sweet drinks should also be sealed.

Wash children’s hands and mouths after eating and don’t leave drinks and food outside longer than necessary. It is also beneficial to collect fallen fruit in the garden regularly. Another tip: wasps don’t like the smell of certain plants, such as mint, lemon balm, and lavender.

wasp nest bee hive

If you find a wasp nest in Austria, call a professional and keep your distance (Photo by Ante Hamersmit on Unsplash)

What if there are wasps already around?

“There is strength in stillness”, says Naturschutzbund.

They alert that the best thing to do is to remain calm (wasps notice our fear as “cold sweat is a warning signal for them”) do not try to blow them away (“exhaled carbon dioxide makes the normally calm animals aggressive”), and do not try to hit them or make any sudden and aggressive movements.

Wasp traps are not a good solution because they work only on individual animals when colonies have several thousand of them. They also end up attracting and killing other animals – the same for any chemical solutions.

What if I find a nest of them?

First of all, keep your distance. At least five metres, according to Naturland Niederösterreich. Nests can host thousands of wasps and they will become aggressive if they feel threatened.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Will Austria ban horse-drawn carriages?

You should also not try to remove or kill it yourself and instead let professionals do the work. It’s standard advice to call the firefighter department, but they would only remove a nest when there is imminent danger.

For example, if a colony is discovered near a retirement home, in a household where there are people with allergies or near a kindergarten.

If there is no such risk, then the best thing to do is call a pest controller.

They will remove and relocate the nest. You can search for “Wespennotdienst” and your region to find a service. Be sure to check prices (and if they charge for a “kilometre allowance” as well.

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VIENNA

‘Best quality’: What you should know about Vienna’s drinking water

As Europe suffered its worst drought in centuries, residents in Austria's capital were feeling fortunate for their plentiful water supply that courses from streams in the green forests of the Alps.

'Best quality': What you should know about Vienna's drinking water

A rarety in the EU, the two million inhabitants of Vienna get their tap water from dozens of springs — the main one some 655 metres (2,150 feet) above sea level.

It’s a serious subject in Vienna, where access to clean drinking water has since 2001 even been guaranteed in the constitution — a world first, according to the city’s website.

“Vienna is in the fortunate position that, as a city of millions, firstly, we have enough water and secondly, that it’s water of the best quality,” Juergen Czernohorszky, Vienna councillor in charge of the environment, told AFP.

READ ALSO: Everything you need to know about Austria’s world-class drinking water

The summer of 2022 was the hottest in Europe’s recorded history, as climate change drives ever longer heat spells and the drought parching the continent was the worst in at least 500 years.

Yet at the main Klaeffer spring feeding Vienna, some 150 kilometres (90 miles) outside the capital, the underground source bears water that is less than six degrees Celsius (43 degrees Fahrenheit) in temperature.

Some 10,000 litres (2,600 gallons) per second flow out from the Klaeffer spring alone, feeding a river named Salza that coils down a steep uninhabited valley.

The water system was set up about a century and a half ago under the Austro-Hungarian Empire to provide the city with fresh water to overcome diseases such as cholera.

READ ALSO: The best lakes and swimming spots in Austria

Today, the city’s sanctuary still encompasses 70 sources in untouched mountains south-west of the capital with a system of 130 aqueducts.

A pipe that connects Vienna through a 90-meter long tunnel with the Klaeffer spring is pictured near Gusswerk. The water system was set up almost a century and a half ago under the Austro-Hungarian Empire to provide the city with fresh water to overcome diseases such as cholera. (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP)

Thirty-one reservoirs in and around the city store the water, drawing officials from as far away as China to marvel at them, municipal water company Wiener Wasser spokeswoman Astrid Rompolt told AFP.

Each Viennese consumes around 130 litres of running water per day for some 30 euro cents ($0.30) — 15 cents cheaper than the same amount in Paris.

In Vienna, there is also enough to feed fountains, swimming pools, 1,300 drinking water fountains and even 175 mist showers that allow passers-by to cool off in the light spray.

READ ALSO: What makes Vienna the ‘most liveable city’ and where can it improve?

The growing city plans to renovate 30 kilometres of pipeline per year to prepare for increasingly hot summers expected as the impacts of climate change intensify.

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