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Munich woman tackles wasps' nest on balcony, causes serious fire

A Munich resident has tried to remove a wasps' nest from her fourth-floor balcony, causing 50,000 euros worth of fire damage. The local fire service urged people to call in professional pest controllers, not go it alone.

Munich's fire service hoisted an extendable ladder Tuesday to extinguish the veranda fire in the city's upscale Bogenhausen suburb, but not before the blaze had gutted balcony furniture and spread to a room above.

The resident, who tried to rid herself of the unwelcome insects, escaped unhurt but faced damages worth 50,000 euros ($58,258), according to Munich's fire service.

The blaze had spread into the neighboring room because heat burst its window, leaving the space with massive scorching and uninhabitable, it said. The fire did also succeed in destroying the wasps' nest.

Even wasps protected

Munich's city authority used the incident to remind the 1.5 million residents of Germany's third-most populous city that people should not take the destruction of wasps' nests into their own hands.

"For wasps, unlike bees, private pest controllers are normally responsible. The fire service only turns out for special emergencies. So that this doesn't happen, one should never tackle wasp nests with fire," the authority said, adding that wild creatures were generally protected under conservancy law.

Pollinating insects declining

The fire in Munich coincides with major alarm among conservationists in Germany and France over declines in insect populations, especially domesticated and wild bees, regarded as essential for plant pollination.

Austrian star chef, Sarah Wiener, well-known in Germany for her outspoken ecological views, on Tuesday helped launch a campaign by Environment Action Germany (DUH) called "Save the (Wild) Bees," which urges a major rethink within EU farm industry circles.

Star cook Sarah Wiener examines a bunch of grapes in a vineyard (picture-alliance/dpa/S. Waschatz )

Wiener is a TV chef and prominent ecological campaigner

"Stop excessive fertilizer usage, pesticides and intensive soil usage," urged the DUH. The campaign is taking a form known as a "protest mail" in German, in which people are encouraged to sign a pre-written letter in their own names, with the option of adding a personal comment at the base; all these "letters" would the be forwarded as emails to Germany's Agriculture Minister Christian Schmidt.

Schmidt is part of the Bavarian conservative Christian Social Union (CSU), sister party to Chancellor Merkel's conservatives in the rest of the country.

The DUH said it was a "sad truth" that the agricultural sector was destroying bee habitats although it depended on crop pollination done for millennia by "honey bees and other wild relatives."

"Bees are finding better nutritional sources in cities than in the open countryside. That is absurd!, asserted the DUH.

Wiener, herself a beekeeper, said: "intensive agriculture leaves less and less room for wild bees and other pollinators."

Feed bees, urges ministry

Schmidt's ministry in April launched a new round of its "bee-feeding" campaign, encouraging residents across Germany to foster and plant 130 plants that provide bees with nectar and pollen.

The DUH said that the total number of honey bee colonies in Germany had shrunk from 1.1 million in 1990 to around 700,000 currently, and half of the 560 wild bee species found across Germany were severely endangered.

ipj/msh (dpa, epd)

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