COURTESY OF HALEAKALA NATIONAL PARK
Western yellowjacket wasps have apparently proliferated more than normal this summer at Haleakala National Park. They are aggressive and can sting more than once in an attack. Shown here is a yellowjacket queen.
Maui park on lookout for aggressive wasps
Haleakala has seen an increase in the alien pests, which can be dangerous
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A wasp with a serious appetite is infesting areas of Haleakala National Park, prompting park officials to warn visitors to be on alert for the stinging insects.
Western yellowjacket wasps are attracted to scents such as perfumes and sunscreen, and they eat meat and sugar, according to a park scientist.
Park officials say at least two visitors have been stung recently and that people who are allergic to bee and wasp stings should stay away from problem areas in the park.
GARY T. KUBOTA
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WAILUKU » Haleakala National Park officials are warning visitors to watch out for an increasing number of alien wasps that are aggressive and can sting more than once in an attack.
The Western yellowjacket wasps are not the typical laid-back species that build paper nests on the eaves of houses.
They are attracted to water and eat meat and sugar. They burrow in the ground, and if someone happens to step on their burrow, they will come out in swarms, national park biologist Raina Kaholoaa said.
"This species is an aggressive species. They're more likely to sting than the paper wasps," she said.
Kaholoaa said the number of Western yellowjacket wasps is exceptional this summer, and at least two visitors have been stung -- one in the vicinity of the visitor entry station and another while at a lookout below the visitor center.
Extremely high numbers have been seen at the base of Sliding Sands trail at the trail junction to Halemauu Trail and at Kapalaoa Cabin.
She said the Western yellowjacket, found in Oregon and Washington state, rise in numbers from August to October at Haleakala National Park.
Park officials recommend against eating food or drinking soda or juice if the wasps are nearby.
Officials said the wasps are also attracted to scents, including perfumes, colognes and sunscreen lotions. The wasps are carnivores and are attracted to the scent of meat.
"If you leave your turkey sandwich, they'll chew on a piece of it, then fly away," Kaholoaa said.
She said the wasps also attack soft-bodied insects, including caterpillars.
"Not only are they bad for us, but they're bad for our native species," she said.
Kaholoaa said the real danger is in a wasp getting into a soft drink when someone is not paying attention, and someone swallowing it and getting stung, swelling breathing passages.
Park officials advise visitors who are allergic to wasps or bee stings to carry their prescribed medications and consider not visiting problem areas.
Officials said if wasps are swarming around you, put away any food or drink and walk away calmly.
Officials said not to swat at the wasps -- this will only make them more aggressive.
Anyone encountering severe reactions from a sting should call 911 for help and go to the visitor center.