Wasps invade Orr Center, distract students

While in his World Mythology class last spring, Cecil Neville noticed something wasn’t quite right.

His classmates were scanning the room with worried looks.

A group of wasps had entered the classroom. What was a typical day of lecture turned into a wasp-swatting contest in minutes.

Neville’s class wasn’t the only one with this problem.

Mariah Richardson had to flee her workplace at the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies the Tuesday after spring break because more than a dozen wasps swarmed the room. Once the maintenance crew came in and sprayed, the wasps could be taken care of with a flyswatter.

Since the incident, the room has stayed open thanks to Richardson swiftly taking care of the individual wasps that intrude. She noticed the wasps are attracted to the lights, so she keeps the lights off to keep attraction to a minimum.

For three years, wasps have been a common problem for the Orr Center, but it was never as bad as it is now, said Center for Interdisciplinary Studies administrative assistant Gayle Jessie.

When faculty members in the Orr Center notice wasps flying around, they report it to Jessie, who reports it to the custodial staff.

English instructor Jenn Horn encountered wasps several times last Spring and sent multiple reports, but has not had many encounters this semester.

“You can tell something is going on because you can see students are having trouble paying attention to whatever is happening in class, they’re more watching the wasps,” Horn said.

When Horn sends in a report, she said the response is usually quick.

English instructor Brianne DiBacco has noticed students become distracted by the wasps and said it affects the classroom dynamic. If one person notices and draws attention to it, then everything is thrown off.

“It’s definitely a disruption. We’ve got a student freaking out or jumping out of their seat and chasing the wasp,” DiBacco said. “It throws everything off, especially the shorter classes.”

Custodial Services Supervisor Donald Broshears said the insects become less active as the year goes on, and as the temperature falls, they begin to enter buildings.

“It’s like a trap. Once it’s in the building, it can’t find its way out,” Broshears said. “If they knew how to get out, they’d get out.”

With an issue like this, maintenance is actively looking for entrances the wasps may be able to get in from. Broshears said the bending and swaying of the building creates new cracks that are so small, they’re hard to spot.

“You can’t go up and hermetically seal the building,” he said.

Broshears has worked at USI for 22 years and said wasps have been present ever since he has, but they have only recently gotten worse. Maintenance has contacted Arab Pest Control to help combat the issue.

They have tried multiple treatments, from fogging to aerosol spray, but they are always looking for a combination of treatment and exclusion that works.

Broshears said they have done everything practical to send the wasps out of the building, but if anyone has any suggestions to take care of the problem, they are open to them.

“We’re aware of the situation and we do everything we can to get rid of them,” Broshears said. “We’re as proactive as can be.”