Ah yes. Wasps. Flying insects with the ability to deliver painful stings. It’s no surprise that you’ve decided to search for a way to get rid of them. Even if they’re not actively stinging you, the thought that they potentially might is enough to stress anyone out.
I personally have a tendency to scream and run away when faced with insects of any kind — save pollinators. It’s even taken me a while to get used to the beneficial bugs in and around my garden. And if a bug – even a pollinator – enters my home, all bets are off. Bugs belong outside. Wasps included — and they should be far away from me.
That said, while it's understandable that you might want to learn how to get rid wasps in of your personal space, you may not want to eradicate them from your garden. Some types of wasps are incredibly beneficial and can keep numerous pests at bay. Would you rather deal with the occasional annoying buzz, or lose a crop to caterpillars?
Additionally, did you know that wasps are pollinators? They have a terrible reputation, but if you encounter a few stray wasps around your garden, don’t go in for the kill right away.
Regardless of whether you want them gone or just under control, this article will give the information you need.
Where wasps might establish themselves
Wasps are more likely to establish themselves near humans. Bees, on the other hand, prefer to remain at a distance from human activity — though this isn’t always the case.
You’re in trouble if anything establishes a nest in or around your home. Bees, wasps, raccoons, or any kind of creature that decides to share your structures near your home is a recipe for trouble. Here are a few places to search for wasps nests:
- Underneath a deck, porch, or patio
- Shrub and hedges
What are wasps attracted to?
Even if there’s no nest around your property, you may be attracting stray wasps to your location inadvertently. Here are some things that wasps are attracted to:
- Trash. Wasps, like other insects, love the smell of garbage and are quick to find access to rotting food waste. Keep your waste bins covered at all times. If you have a wasp problem, make sure your compost is adequately covered, too.
- Sweets. Anything sweet is going to attract a variety of insects from ants to wasps. Whether it’s sweet-smelling juice or sugar water in your hummingbird feeder or rotted fruit that has fallen from a tree, wasps love it.
- A cozy spot for sleeping. When the winter comes, wasps and bees look for a place to hibernate. Many areas in and around human-built structures are appealing for sleepy soon-to-be-hibernating insects, including wasps.
- Meat. Are you having a BBQ in the early summertime? You might notice a sudden influx of visiting wasps. After hibernating all winter, wasps are on the lookout for high-protein foods, including your delicious BBQ fare.
Knowing what wasps eat and not leaving them on a plain sight is a good way to prevent wasps getting attracted to your property in the first place.
How to Get Rid of Wasps
Okay. You’ve found a nest, or you’ve noticed an abundance of visitor wasps entering your property. How do you handle this sudden influx of stinging insects? Here are a few strategies for ridding yourself of wasps:
- Prevent wasps from infiltrating your home by sealing cracks, so that wasps cannot enter and build a nest in your walls.
- A variety of essential oils are known for their pest repelling properties (e.g., lemongrass). Add some essential oil — use good quality oils for the best results — to a spray bottle and fill it with water. Spray anywhere you’ve seen or encountered wasps to deter them from returning.
- Certain flowers actually deter wasps. Some examples include citronella and thyme.
- You can purchase wasps deterrents at the hardware store. Carefully read instructions before using as many storebought options may be dangerous when used around pets or children.
- Buy a replica wasp nest and hang it somewhere visible. Wasps are unlikely to move in on your property if they spot another nest because they’re territorial.
- Build your own traps or buy them to keep your wasp problem under control.
Getting rid of an existing nest
If a few solitary wasps have turned into a deluge of insects, you likely have a nest somewhere on your property. If you spot a nest, don’t immediately approach. Here are some tips for dealing with a wasp nest:
Preparation is key
- Cover yourself. Avoid painful stings by fully covering your body prior to approaching a nest.
- Attack at night. Sleepy wasps are less aggressive, so don’t head over to the nest in the daytime.
- Get tested. Ask your doctor to perform an allergy test to find out if you’re allergic to wasp stings. Don’t approach a nest without first knowing whether you’re allergic. It’s an unnecessary risk.
- Don’t haul out the ladder. If wasps decide to swarm you while you’re on a ladder, there’s a high risk that you’ll fall and injure yourself. Stay off the ladder.
Get to work
- Spray the nest. Use a concentrated pest control spray to get the job done and stand as far back as you can. Once sprayed, go to bed and wait till the next day to check for wasp activity. Get rid of the nest when you no longer spy any wasps in the vicinity. Use a stick or other long object to poke the nest to verify that it’s no longer active.
- Drown the wasps. It’s possible to submerge a wasp nest in water, but it’s a bit of a close encounter tactic, so we don’t recommend it.
- Smoke them out. Use a smoky fire to get rid of a wasp nest built somewhere high up and out of reach. Never use this strategy for wasps nest close to your home’s structure as it poses a fire risk.
- Call a pest control expert. If you’re not sure how to deal with the situation, you’re allergic, or you’re nervous about getting stung, call a professional to help you get rid of the nest.
- Let the wasps live. If the nest is nestled away from your home’s structure, it might be worthwhile to leave it alone. Wasps are beneficial insects, after all!
Types of Wasps
While there are a variety of wasp species in existence, there are three main types that tend to annoy humans.
These flying stingers aren’t particularly aggressive, but they’re relatively common. Despite their low-key attitude, hornets have a nasty sting that won’t quickly be forgotten by the target human.
These black and yellow bugs look similar to bees because of their coloring. Unless you bother their nest, however, they’re unlikely to seek you out and sting you. They often build nests close to the ground.
A brown species of wasp with distinctive long legs. They’re more likely to build elevated or hanging nests. Though they’re not particularly aggressive compared to other species, they will attack if their nest is disturbed. They’re known predators of a variety of pest insect species.
Difference between wasps and bees
Unless you’re an entomologist, you might have a bit of trouble differentiating between wasps and bees. Of course, the soft and fuzzy bumblebee that buzzes about your flowers is easy to identify, but many wasps and bee species look stunningly alike. So how can you tell the difference?
The number of insects in a colony: Bees tend to hang out in larger numbers than wasps, though, if there’s a large colony of either type of insect on your property, you likely won’t be quick to tell the difference between one that consists of 10,000 or 30,000.
Hair: Wasps aren’t as hairy as bees. In my opinion, body hair is what makes bees so cute. I’m always tempted to pet the fuzzy little creatures. So the rule of thumb is: No body hair? No petting.
Narrow abdomen: Wasps also have thinner waists than bees. Wasps are the slim cousins to chubby bees (another reason why bees are cuter).
Size: Wasps are usually larger than bees.
Sting: Wasps deliver a painful sting like bees do, but the difference is that they can repeatedly sting their victims — unlike bees. If you encounter a swarm, there’s more of a danger — especially for anyone with allergies to insect stings.
Reasons for getting rid of wasps
Okay, we’ve established that there are a few annoying wasp species with a tendency to hang around humans, but why bother getting rid of wasps in the first place?
Aggressiveness. While they are technically a type of beneficial insect, they’re also a lot more aggressive than other pollinators and more likely to sting you. If you have children or pets, that’s an additional reason to consider wasp deterrents or removing an existing nest.
Allergies. Those with allergies to stinging insects will want to keep them far away and avoid any infestations.
Potential for damage. Certain wasp species may infiltrate your home via cracks and holes and establish themselves inside your walls. The situation may cause damage to your home’s structure and may be difficult to clean up. You may need to knock down walls to access the nest to get rid of it. If you’re selling your house or thinking of doing so, having a wasp nest around is a definite buzzkill for potential buyers.
They’re irritating. If you’re anything like me, you’re not fond of insects flying around while you try to enjoy dinner or a book outside.
The Bottom Line
Wasps can be a pest or a positive presence – it all depends on your perspective. If you decide to get rid of them, let us know what method you find most beneficial in the comments.