Wasp grubs – bait with a sting in the tail

Most anglers have at one time or other dreamed of discovering the ultimate bait – a bait with magical properties that even the wiliest fish can’t resist. Most have concluded that there can be no such thing. But an angler who has spent a couple of hours on a noted chub river with a piece of wasp ‘cake’ by his side, is likely to tell you that he has come pretty close. For the effects of wasp grub on a swim full of chub can be devastating. The problem, of course, is getting your hands on a nest without being stung.

Buying grubs mostly in Yorkshire

A few tackle shops occasionally sell bits of nest but this is rare and the bait doesn’t come cheap. It can be worth asking down at your local council depot – nests are sometimes removed from parks and public gardens. More often than not, though, such nests are destroyed in the process and the only sure-fire way of securing one is to go out there and get it yourself.

Collecting a nest

Wasps nest in all sorts of places – in trees, lofts, disused birds’ nests and mouse holes -but the type to look for are underground nests. These are the easiest to remove. Finding one might not seem a problem.

The trouble is that as soon as you start looking they seem to grow scarce.

When to look Mid to late autumn is when the black and yellow devils make their presence felt – descending on orchards, disrupting jam-making in kitchens and terrorizing anyone holding an ice cream. But you need to look for their nests much earlier because by mid-August a nest is in decline.

Mid-July is about right. This is when wasps are preoccupied with enlarging the nest – digging out the underground gallery to make room for new layers of comb. At this stage the nest contains fewer, smaller grubs – the larvae of females – which don’t make ideal hookbait. Later, though, when the workers have matured and the colony is bigger and more established, the nest contains the larvae of new queen wasps. These are the plumpest, most succulent grubs in the nest and the ones that drive chub wild. By finding the nest early you can keep an eye on it and wait until the beginning of August—when it is ripe for the picking. Where to look There are two ways of finding nests. You can either look for them directly or track them down with the aid of a flying wasp.

Ask the neighbours if they have a nest in their garden – they’ll probably be only too willing to get rid of it. In urban areas nests are often sited on wasteland, alongside a footpath, or along rivers and canals. Although wasps are extremely industrious, they tend to make nest-building easier by burrowing into soft ground. This is why one of the best places to look is along a grass-covered bank of sandy soil — especially alongside a waterway.

What you are looking for is a small, roundish hole — about 4-5cm in diameter – with wasps flying in and out.

Another way of finding a nest is by looking for wasps flying to and from it. This is not as hit-or-miss as it might sound but you do need to be in the right kind of area.

Sit down for a few minutes and look for a wasp silhouetted against the sky, flying in a straight line. If you do spot one flying straight and fast then it is almost certainly going to, or coming from, a nest – which won’t be far away. Keep your eyes fixed on the line the wasp takes, and in a short while you’ll probably see another flying along the same line -either in the same or opposite direction. A wasp that has just left the nest carries a little bundle of earth which is quite visible. It dumps this and then returns ‘empty-handed’. So once you’ve worked out the general direction of the nest it is a matter of walking along the line towards the nest and staying on course.

Taking the nest

Before you can dig a nest out you need to kill all the wasps in the colony. Anglers have tried various methods. Some – such as poisoning wasps with cyanide-based powders or rags soaked in petrol – are not only lethal to the insects but potentially lethal to humans and animals as well. They should never be used. Pesticidal powders and sprays designed for killing wasps are generally not powerful enough. So what is the answer?

Rodent smokes A highly effective and far safer way of killing wasps is to use rodent smokes. These are smoke capsules sold by garden centres for ridding gardens of rats, moles and mice. Fools rush in If you boldly try to smoke a nest out without planning the campaign you may get seriously stung. The plan is to smoke the nest out late in the evening just as it is getting dark. During the day the nest is too active and even if you did manage to smoke it out you may be attacked by wasps returning home. At night all the wasps gather in the nest and you can get the whole lot in one go. But the first thing is to do a reconnaissance.

Without getting too close or disturbing the nest, have a good look at the site. If it is situated next to a public path or anywhere that might inconvenience others, then forget it. Next, make sure that, should the worst come to the worst, you can make a quick exit.

Try to pin-point exactly where the entrance is. Occasionally, some nests have two entrances. If this is the case then don’t bother with it.

Mark the position of the nest with a stick so you can find it in the dark, then leave it alone.

Night mission With a rodent smoke taped firmly to the end of a long cane and armed with matches, torch and a bottle of water, set out for the nest.

Without disturbing it, shine the torch on the hole and take a quick peek to see that all’s quiet.

If the nest is surrounded by dry grass or anything else that might burn, then dampen the area around the hole with water. Now take up the rodent smoke, and keeping an eye on the nest entrance, carefully light aerosol of wasp killer. Pull the cane out and stand back. If you see a single wasp buzzing around then your campaign has failed — don’t try to remove the nest. If all’s quiet then take out a few quick spadefuls until you hit the nest. Stand back again. If the smoke treatment has worked there should be few if any wasps alive. Try to keep the nest in one piece. Put it straight into the bucket and pop the lid on. When you get home mash up the bits of nest that do not contain grubs, scald with boiling water and mix in some breadcrumb groundbait. Grubs for hookbait are best kept in their individual cells in the cake but watch out for hatching wasps.

A final word

Make sure you get permission from the landowner before starting to dig out a nest -never trespass on private ground. the touch paper. Allow a second or two for it to get going properly then push the smoke firmly, but not violently, into the hole. Retire to a safe distance and keep an eye on things until the smoke stops.

Return to the nest very early next morning with a spade, a sealable bucket and an