A rural policeman uses his beekeeping skills to make the community safer

Fairlie Senior Constable Russell Halkett said he was a beekeeper before joining the force.

JOHN BISSET/Stuff

Fairlie Senior Constable Russell Halkett said he was a beekeeper before joining the force.

A South Canterbury police officer uses skills from a previous job to help keep the people of his rural town safe.

Senior Constable Russell Halkett, of Fairlie, was a beekeeper before joining the police force and said he uses his skills and experience to deal with wasps in the town in his spare time.

Halkett, who is also a member of the Lions Club of Fairlie, said the club maintains the bike path between Fairlie and Kimble, where the nests are usually located.

He said wasps are a pest and a danger to bees and humans, and he was happy to take care of them for the community.

“Every year I go out and destroy the nests that annoy people on the trail,” Halkett said.

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A few weeks ago, Halkett said he destroyed twelve nests he found about a mile from Fairlie.

“Usually in the fall every year the wasps are high in numbers and start annoying people. So I go out and destroy them.

“The number of nests is practically the same every year.”

He said the most nests he had treated in a season was about 60 nests five years ago.

The most nests Russell Halkett has destroyed in one season was five years ago, when he was tending about 60 nests.

JOHN BISSET/Stuff

The most nests Russell Halkett has destroyed in one season was five years ago, when he was tending about 60 nests.

Halkett said his preferred method of treating a nest is to simply sprinkle a few tablespoons of insecticidal powder into the nest holes.

“The next day, the whole nest is dead. The wasps take it to the nest and do the rest for you.

This year, a report from a Fairlie woman who had been stung by a wasp while running with her dog on the river trail prompted Halkett to destroy the nests.

“I do it every year around this time anyway,” he said.

The woman, who did not wish to be named, said she had been stung in the hand but the medication she was using helped.

Dr. Bob Brown of Landcare Research says weather, particularly in the spring, plays a major role in the variation in wasp numbers from year to year.  (File photo)

BOB BROWN / Stuff

Dr. Bob Brown of Landcare Research says weather, particularly in the spring, plays a major role in the variation in wasp numbers from year to year. (File photo)

Manaaki Whenua – Dr. Bob Brown of Landcare Research said weather, particularly in the spring, plays a major role in the variation in wasp numbers from year to year. However, he said wasp nest building is seasonal, so people are likely to notice more wasp nests at this time of year.

“Nest activity increases in February and March before decreasing in late fall. Queens hibernate through the winter,” Brown said.

The German wasp (Vespula germanica) was first discovered near Hamilton in 1945; the common wasp (Vespula vulgaris) has been present in New Zealand since 1978.

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