Beware of wasp hives

By Ron Leir

Observer Correspondent


The hive is back.

That’s the buzz around the Kearny Health Department these days and there’s no metaphor behind that. It’s for real.

Hornets and wasps have been making the scene, big time, around town, with the department logging as many as a dozen hives since Labor Day, according to Town Health Officer John Sarnas.

“That [number] is abnormal for this time of year,” Sarnas said.

He had no explanation for the sudden profusion of the winged creatures.

Their bites are “very nasty” and “can be fatal,” Sarnas said. “You can go into anaphylactic shock and die.”

Unlike bees, which sting its victim only once, wasps and hornets (larger-size wasps) will sting repeatedly.

Fortunately, as of last week, there were no reports of any residents being stung – although Public Works Superintendent Gerry Kerr had taken a hit while assisting Public Health Investigator Bill Pettigrew take out a hive in Manor Park. Kerr survived his wound.

Among the locations where hives have been discovered were: 250 Highland Ave., the Devon Terrace playground, 139 Magnolia Ave., Devon and Columbia Ave. and Manor Park, Sarnas said.

“The one at Devon and Columbia is probably the largest I’ve seen,” said Pettigrew. “It was the size of a basketball.” Sarnas said there can be more than 300 wasps or hornets in a hive, not including those buzzing outside it.

Typically, Sarnas said, the hives are found on the lower branches of a maple tree – “always a maple” – about 15 to 20 feet off the ground.

The Health Dept. deals only with hives on public property – not, unfortunately, with those in homeowners’ yards, Sarnas said. The services of a private exterminator cost about $200, he said.

“It usually takes us afull 17 1/2-ounce spray can to take out a nest and about a half hour to complete the job,” Sarnas said. “Fortunately, there’s only one access point to the nest so we shoot the spray in and that usually does it.”

Not so, however, in the case of the Manor Park hive. Sarnas said a crew had to return after having already attacked the hive because it turned out “the dome was still connected to the branch and the eggs that were there had hatched.”

Once a hive is completely eradicated, Sarnas said, the wasps or hornets don’t return because “once the queen is gone, that’s it.”

Meanwhile, the Health Dept. will be going to municipal court soon for a hearing on a dog bite case involving an alleged attack on a 46-yearold female resident by three canines.

According to police records, the incident happened on Aug. 16 at 8:30 a.m. on Butler Place. Police said the victim told them she was walking her Chihuaha/Dachshund along Butler Place when she noticed two boxers and a pit bull jumping around in a yard. She said a young woman came out to retrieve her garbage cans and, as they were speaking, the three dogs ran out of the yard through an open gate and bit her dog on the ear, neck and legs. And, the victim said, she, too, was bitten on the right side of her face, both arms, buttock, back and legs.

The victim told police she “tried to escape the attack by climbing into a garden area of the property ….,” apparently to no avail.

Police said the victim was taken by Kearny EMS to Clara Maass Hospital in Belleville for treatment. The victim’s dog was later taken to a private animal hospital.

One witness of the incident told police that the two boxers “went after the victim’s dog” but that the pit bull “did not join in the attack.” The witness told police that she “wrestled the male boxer … while someone else grabbed the female boxer ….” Afterward, the witness said she notified the dogs’ owner by phone of the incident.

Another witness also said the pit bull “was not involved” in the attack on the victim.

In the aftermath of the incident, the Health Dept. issued a summons to the dogs’ caretaker alleging “failure to confine all three dogs,” and on Aug. 22, after being advised by the victim’s parents that their daughter had “sustained serious injuries to her face, buttocks, legs and arms,” Pettigrew, Bergen County Supervising Animal Control Officer Bob Harrison and Police Officer Melinda Esparedo went to the Butler Place location where they found the “front [driveway] gate unsecured and all three dogs unsupervised in the rear yard. … in violation of a quarantine order.” The two boxers were in a plywood pen that “did not appear very secure,” while a third dog was “chained to a clothes line,” the Health Dept. report said.

All three dogs were then removed to the Bergen County Animal Shelter in Teterboro pending the outcome of the court hearing, scheduled for Oct. 10.

Based on the evidence available at the time, on Aug. 23 the county’s Harris issued a finding that the two boxers “did cause bodily injury or serious bodily injury to a human” and that “there is the potential threat of serious bodily injury to a person or death to another domestic animal.”

It will be up to the court to determine “whether these dogs are potentially dangerous,” Harris’s report said.

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