Wasps have created a hive in the upper level of the Student Center, resulting in an infestation of yellowjackets – both alive and dead – found throughout the second floor.
The wasps were first reported on Aug. 24, the same day that many students participating in early move-in arrived. Exterminators from Tri County Pest Control — the exterminator Ramapo has a contract with — checked out the scene the following day.
“The team was unable to find any visible activity of where [the wasps were] coming into the building,” Mike Cunningham, director of Facilities and critical infrastructure security, said in an interview.
Though wasps were certainly present, the source of the problem was not yet identified, so there was nothing the team could do at that moment. They returned to campus on Sept. 8 and Sept. 22 after receiving additional work orders, but the response was the same.
Facilities staff, too, could not take part in any extermination themselves, as they do not have any licensed in-house specialists. The most Ramapo can do is assist in the process in small ways, such as cleaning up the dead wasps and looking out for the source of the problem. Cunningham shared that it was the grounds building manager Edward Roessler who eventually spotted the source of the hive.
There is a soffit area between the windows and the wall at the very top of the corner Student Center window that the wasps are sneaking in through. It is tricky to reach because of its high location in a corner, however, the college has already undergone two treatments to kill the hive. They were conducted on Friday, Oct. 7 and Tuesday, Oct. 11.
“There are some wasps flying into the hole now, but over the past few days it was kind of like a little bit of a swarm,” Cunningham said, acknowledging that the issue is much calmer now than a few days ago.
However, after the first treatment, it seemed to have “aggravated [the wasps] a little more, so it [caused] more activity,” said Nicole Jones, the associate supervisor of Facilities and building services. The second treatment took better care of the situation and did not cause the same type of feedback.
Though some students, staff and faculty had been aware of the wasps for a while, more became aware and fearful once swarms of wasps were present and paper signs were posted near the large windows and lounge area next to the Student Center staircase. They read, “Please use CAUTION. Bees are present. Response is underway and continuing on Thursday, 10/6.” The papers have since removed the date because there is no clear end.
Some students took issue with the paper’s word choice, as the insects present are wasps or yellow jackets present, not bees. The Beekeeping Club’s president Yaren Ozbay, a junior nursing major, and secretary Isaac Altman, a sophomore nursing major, find it concerning that the use of “bees” continues the stigma and spread of misinformation that all bees are bad.
“We’re taking care of honeybees,” Ozbay said. “We want people to not be afraid of them because they’re important for our environment and give us food.”
She and Altman stressed that wasps are much more aggressive and threatening than honeybees, so it is understandable to be afraid of them, but they encourage others to not confuse them with the bees they advocate for at Ramapo. Not understanding the difference between bee-like insects causes great harm. Misinformed people are more likely to oppose the Save the Bees movement, leading to the destabilization of the environment.
Ozbay said she believes instances like these can be handled with care when extermination takes place. There are ways to capture and remove the wasps without killing all of them. Sustainability is something that Facilities values and is cognizant of the pollinators on campus. Facilities is actually “very bee positive.”
“We can’t just indiscriminately spray pesticides for bees and wasps because we have different pollinators on campus. We don’t want to wipe out our beehives and other good things, because it’ll kill everything,” Cunningham said. “So we try to do a very, very targeted response for the greater good… [and have] good sustainability practice.”
Although wasps are still lingering inside, the situation is much calmer, and Facilities plans on conducting another treatment if it has not been resolved within the next few days.
Photo by Lydia Fries