Eeon Ryan is possibly the most popular man in Arrowtown right now – except with wasps.
He’s got the job no one else wants – killing the hundreds of wasp nests that are rampant in the town at the height of the nesting season.
Ryan, 80 next month, has been chief wasp exterminator for the past 15 years, and he reckons so far this season is the busiest he’s ever had.
Since last November, he’s been called to get rid of 220 nests in Arrowtown alone – at the same time last year he’d snuffed out only 13.
He’s not sure why this summer’s so busy – “but I do know the severity of the winter has nothing to do with it”.
Ryan first learned how to destroy the pesky critters after seeking advice from a beekeeper in the 1960s.
“They damn near drove us mad on the farm in Southland about 40 years ago.
It became a hate after that.”
Killing wasp nests – which can be found inside new or old buildings or outside – is quite simple, Ryan says. He uses a tool to dispense a small amount of poisonous powder into the entrance to the nest.
“And then walk back deliberately, because like all animals they know if you’re scared of them.”
Powder fumes normally wipe out every wasp in the nest within two hours.
Ryan gets a token sum from Queenstown Lakes District Council to pay for poison but he doesn’t accept payment from Arrowtown residents.
“I’ve often been offered something but I tell them no, the only expense I’ve got is shoe leather.”
However, he charges a fee if the nest is outside Arrowtown and he has to take his car.
Ryan’s been stung a few times but has never suffered a serious reaction.
He enjoys getting out and about each day knowing he’s helping people: “It’s not an arduous thing. It’s a matter of walking round and, like I tell people, trying to look intelligent,” he says.
“It beats the hell out of doing nothing.”