A “super nest” of wasps in Chilton County, AL. Image: Charles Ray

Imagine walking into your tool shed and seeing a nest, several feet wide, buzzing with as many as 18,000 wasps. That’s the unnerving reality that a growing number of Americans in southern states are facing this summer. Charles Ray, an entomologist with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System says that while he usually sees 1 or 2 of these “super nests” per summer, this year he’s already identified 12 and in 2006 (a particularly bad year for wasps) he recorded as many as 90 and expects this year to be nearly as bad.

How Does This Happen? Most yellow jackets don’t survive the winter because they freeze to death or have trouble finding food–they need a lot of sugar and carbohydrates to function. However super nests result when nests do survive the winter and the wasps live into the spring and summer building on the previous year’s nest. While an average wasp nest does not exceed the size of a volleyball, these super nests have been known to take up entire cars and seemingly pop up out of nowhere.

Don’t Poke the Nest: Wasps are extremely aggressive and experts are warning people not to disturb their nests on their own and rather to call a professional exterminator. As the New York Times explained, yellow jackets are responsible for almost all of the stinging deaths in the United States and unlike bees, they can sting multiple times. Wasp stings can be especially dangerous for children, especially if parents aren’t yet aware that their kids have an allergy to stings–here are some tips to protect your kids from bees and wasps this summer.

Why This Matters: As climate change continues to make winters warmer, it means that super nests will continue to become a problem for people. The same goes for the range of other pests like ticks and mosquitos as they’re living through increasingly mild winters. Unfortunately, this isn’t a problem isolated to the United States, as the UK is bracing itself for an invasion of super pests amid the heatwave much of Europe is experiencing.

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