One perk of having cooler temps as autumn weather sets in is that creepy crawlies buzz off to their hiding spots once more. However, the Maltese Islands are still battling quite the invasion of two particular insect species: the Oriental Hornet and the Termite.
Over the last month or so, more and more locals have reported increased sightings of the Oriental Hornet (known as Zunzan Baghal in Maltese). Exterminator Arnold Sciberras told MaltaToday that the insect is indigenous to Malta and Gozo but is found also in the Med, the Middle East, India, Madagascar and the United Arab Emirates.
The hornet, reddish brown with a distinctive yellow hue on its head and abdomen, starts popping up around May all the way to early December. “It can kill large insects like grasshoppers and the highly beneficial honeybee. Some have also been recorded attacking bird and mice nests. The bee can be sometimes be seen stalking public areas for human food.”
This year alone, Sciberras revealed he tended to 3,766 nests with each one’s population varying anywhere between 30 and 400 hornets. Well, damn. He also warns of the insect’s utterly painful sting, urging victims to seek medical attention immediately as symptoms such as difficult in breathing, shortness of breath, an urticarial rash, wheezing and also facial swelling can occur. Some others, he says, have also reported symptoms such as a fast heartbeat and low blood pressure.
And it seems like the hornet is quite the temperamental creature, attacking its victims when triggered. When threatened, the hornet released pheromones from its body that kind of order the rest of the nest to attack. A battle call of sorts. Sciberras notes that it is important to stay away from a hornet’s nest once spotted. He also told GuideMeMalta that another wasp species, the Vespa germanica, also "wreaked havoc especially in Sliema and St Julian's this summer."
The other creature Sciberras warns about is termites. “While termites do not pose any physical danger to humans, the damage they can cause can be extensive and irreparable,” he says. “Locally most people are unaware that we even have termites. In fact, they were of such minor importance they were classified in layman’s terms just as ‘susa’, which in Maltese refers to any insect that in one of its life stages attacks live or dead wood.”
Lookout for these pesky little creatures!