After wildfires, Fort McMurray hit with wasp swarms and floooding

Tar Sands Fort McMurray flood 1

Flooding in Fort McMurray. A local state of emergency and a boil water order have been declared in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, including the city of Fort McMurray. (Twitter, @MAviation) | Twitter, MAviation

Fort McMurray, still recovering from wildfire, dealing with flooding

Province of Alberta warns residents of falling trees due to heavy rain

By Mack Lamoureux, Wallis Snowdon, CBC News, June 9, 2016

A downpour flooded streets in several neighbourhoods across Fort McMurray, the northern Alberta community where residents have only recently begun returning to their homes weeks after being forced out by wildfire. 

Rain pounded the city all day Thursday — a total of 47 millimetres — flooding several neighbourhoods, including Thickwood and Timberlea.

Alberta Agriculture and Forestry said in a release the “rain has increased the hazardous conditions within the Horse River Wildfire.”

It warned people to stay away from burned areas as trees could come down.

It was just last week that the 80,000 people living in Fort McMurray were allowed to return home after a wildfire forced the evacuation of the city on May 3.

Stressful memories

Tar Sands Fort McMurray flood 2

Stroud Bay in the Thickwood neighbourhood was one of the areas of Fort McMurray affected by flooding from a downpour. (Tina Pilgrim)

While some welcomed the rain, it brought back stressful memories of the summer of 2013 for Thomas Jackson.

After a deluge of heavy rains that June, the Hangingstone River overran its banks and flooded parts of Waterways, Grayling Terrace, and the downtown core.

“We’ve had rain like this before, but I haven’t seen flooding like that since 2013 when we had that last major flood up here,” said Jackson.

“It’s not at that level yet, but I haven’t seen the sewers back up like this before. The water is getting pretty high, up to the top of people’s bumpers.”


Jackson said Thursday that vacuum trucks have been parked in neighbourhoods around the city all day, pumping out the overworked drainage lines.

Earlier in the day on several streets in some of the worst-hit areas, bylaw officers were knocking on doors, Jackson says, asking residents to check their basements for signs of flooding.

“The rain was good at first because everybody was hoping for rain, and now I think it’s going to start worrying people again. I mean, they come back from being evacuated, and now they have something else to deal with.”

Wasps and hornets swarm Fort McMurray in wake of wildfire

Wasp nest

This is a wasp nest. Any nest with grey or brown paper is a wasp nest. This nest has formed in a very common spot, under the eaves of a house.

During the weeks when Alberta’s oilsands city was a ghost town, swarms of wasps and hornets moved in

By Wallis Snowdon, CBC News June 9, 2016

A buzzing anxiety has gripped the city of Fort McMurray.

A black mass of wasps, hornets and all kinds of stinging insects have swarmed into the northern Alberta community.

People who have returned to the wildfire-ravaged city have been terrorized by the pests, and social media is humming with close-encounters, and tips about the best extermination methods.

Nests have cropped up on countless porches and patios; some colonies have even made themselves at home inside long-abandoned homes.

When the raging wildfire called “The Beast” pushed residents out last month, the stinging insects moved in.

Peter Heule, an entomologist at the Royal Alberta Museum, thinks the unwelcome guests were lured in by the quiet of the temporary ghost town, then left to their own devices too long.

“It’s been weeks, a month, where the wasps could build and do whatever they want to do. So the wasps have been building nests, because this is the time of year that they’re naturally doing that.

“And the wasps may very well have chosen those sites because it didn’t seem like there was any kind of human disturbance. And now they are hassling people.

“I don’t see that it’s related to the wildfire as much as it is related to the evacuation.”

Garbage left to rot during the evacuation could have also been a factor. Flies drawn by the stench of decomposition in alleyways across the city would have made a perfect meal for the carnivorous creatures.

Yes, wasps — unlike their nectar-loving cousins — eat meat.

“They tend to be more interested in caterpillars and that kind of thing, but there is a wide variety of wasps, with a wide variety of tastes.”

Good season for stingers 

Though wasps have made their presence known in Fort McMurray, populations of all kinds of stinging insects have been plentiful across Alberta, because of the hot, dry conditions.

“In a dry year, it’s always going to be better for the wasps,” said Heule

“You have to think of it as a trade off. It’s either a bad mosquito year or it’s a bad wasp year, so we’re seeing lots of wasps across the province right now.”

What can people do to rid their homes of this scourge?

Forget poison, Heule advised. If you must kill them, drown them out instead.

“A good, high-pressure garden hose with the gun on the end is just as effective as any kind of pesticide,” said Heule.

“They will flush from that nest and they’re going to chase after you, but at least you’re not soaking your own environment with toxins.”

But even the most extreme methods will never totally rid a yard of the insects, and Heule suggested people learn to love the buzzing swarms.

“We don’t like wasps,” said Heule. “But you don’t realize, they’re there because there is food for them. And they are a very important part of the ecosystem.”

“And they’ll always come back. Don’t start a battle you can’t win.”


Posted on June 10, 2016, in Oil & Gas and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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