With beautiful spring weather comes fun outdoor activities.Those activities might be interrupted if you have wasps and hornets, but you don’t have to let them take control. Learn how to get rid of wasps and hornets to reclaim your yard and enjoy the outdoors.
Intro | How to Get Rid of Wasps
Wasp colonies begin in the spring starting with a queen, which was previously fertilized. Wasps don’t have a very long lifespan, beginning with a queen that is fertilized before winter then goes into hibernation while the rest die off. If the fertilized queen survives the winter, she will build a nest at the beginning of spring and produce an offspring of worker females. The workers expand the nest while the queen continues laying eggs. The colony can consist of over 5,000 individual wasps by late summer; although these will all die come winter time along with the founding queen and the process starts all over again the following spring.
Wasps and hornets are stinging pests that can be problematic if they choose a location on your property to build their nests. These pests can be beneficial for gardens due to the nature of their diets; however, they are a nuisance to homeowners and make it difficult to enjoy the outdoorst. Getting stung can be painful, but it can also be dangerous and even fatal for someone with an allergy to the venom that’s emitted.
VIDEO | Spectracide Wasp & Hornet Killer
What is the Difference Between a Wasp and a Hornet?
The name wasp and hornet is often used interchangeably. Both of these insects are stinging insects that belong to the order Hymenoptera. In fact, the term wasp covers a broad range of over 30,000 known species belonging to the Vespidae family. There is only one true classification of hornet,the European or Brown Hornet. The Bald-faced hornet is what most homeowners see and classify as a hornet; although, it’s still a wasp. The biggest distinguishing factor between wasps and hornets is size and color. Wasps have many variations in coloration depending on species ranging from black to metallic greens and blues or black and yellow rings. They also vary in size from one-third of an inch up to one inch in length. Wasps that are classified as hornets are 1 to 1.5 inches long and are black and white or may be reddish-brown in color. They also have a wider midsection.
Most wasps are not very aggressive unless they feel threatened. Their diet consists mainly of other insects and they can be drawn to food like sweets and proteins. Hornets primarily prey on other insects and do not usually scavenge for sweets or foods. They are very protective of their nests and can become very aggressive when disturbed, stinging their victim multiple times in a row. This alone can be reason enough to learn more about how to get rid of wasps and hornets.
Types of Wasps
There are two groups that scientists categorize wasps into – social wasps and solitary wasps. Social wasp types are the ones that homeowners typically see around their home. These build colonies and use their stingers as a defense mechanism. Solitary wasps do not build colonies. They often go unseen and do not pose a stinging threat to humans unless handled; rather, they use their stingers primarily for scavenging food.
Hornets are social wasps that build their nests in aerial locations such as tree branches, tree hollows, or thick bushes as well as covered areas such as attic rafters. Their nests are typically globular in shape much like a pine cone with an opening at the bottom. They are constructed of a paper-like material that is a mixture of the hornet’s saliva and obtained wood fibers. These insects are primarily carnivorous insects with their diets consisting of other insects including grasshoppers, bees and yellow jackets. They rarely scavenge for sweets, although they may also consume plant nectar to give their dietary needs a boost.
In addition to hornets, other classifications of social wasps that are most common in the U.S. include paper wasps, yellow jackets, and mud daubers.
These insects are distinguished by the construction of their nests. There are more than 22 different species of paper wasps in North America. They construct their nests of plant materials such as stems and dead wood to fabricate an umbrella shaped nest. The nests may be built in aerial or ground locations and resemble paper combs having no enclosure to protect it. Paper wasps can vary in coloration from reddish-brown to dark red, but are typically dark brown and black with yellow markings. The size of the nest is a good indicator of the size of the colony because the workers will continue to expand as they reproduce.
These are more aggressive wasps than paper wasps. As their name indicates, yellow jackets can be easily identified by their black and yellow body segments. They can be distinguished apart from bees by their slimmer midsections and hair-less body. These social wasps form colonies that can grow by the thousands. They typically build their nests underground or in enclosed spaces such as voids in walls. Unlike other common types of wasps, yellow jackets are pollinators; although not as effective as bees. They can also pose a threat to honeybees by invading their hives for honey and may kill bees in the process. Their aggressive behavior in protecting the colony make them dangerous to humans and pets as well. Much like other wasp stings a yellow jacket sting is painful and often accompanied with swelling, warmth to the touch, redness, and itching at the site. A sting by a yellow jacket can have severe reactions and in individuals that are allergic can be critical.
Mud Dauber Wasps
These solitary wasps are characterized by their nests constructed of mud rather than paper-like material. A variety of species are classified as mud daubers, which may also be referred to as dirt daubers or mud wasps. The nests are constructed slightly differently depending on the species with one type consisting of a group of cylinder-shaped cells covered completely with mud measuring about 4 inches long and 2 inches wide. Another common mud dauber nest construction resembles pipes on a pipe organ with groups of tubes made from mud. The nests of these solitary insects serve to house their prey and lay their eggs. They use their stingers to paralyze their prey, but not kill. Once the eggs are deposited on top of the prey, the cell is sealed with mud creating a cocoon for the next generation while they metamorphosize. These wasps are not aggressive and will rarely sting humans when left untouched.
How to Get Rid of Wasp Nests
If you have wasps around your home or yard, there’s most likely a nest not too far. If you’re looking for solutions on how to get rid of wasps and hornets, the best way is to get rid of the wasp nest. One thing you should never attempt is swatting or squashing a wasp. Social wasps belonging to a colony have a defensive tactic that emit pheromones to alert the other wasps when in distress. This sends the other wasps into attack mode creating a swarming fury. It’s important to learn the proper ways of terminating these insects to avoid getting stung. If you are allergic to wasps it is best to have someone else or consult with a professional for proper removal.
There are a variety of methods you can approach on how to get rid of wasps and their nests. Different techniques may be required depending on the type of wasp you’re trying to eliminate. If you can locate the nest, identifying what type of wasp based on its construction can be incredibly helpful in successful removal. The heaviest wasp traffic is typically during dusk and dawn when they return to the nest prior to the sun setting. This is an ideal time to try and locate the nest.
Safety Tips for Wasp Nest Removal
Before you approach any type of wasp nest take precautionary measures to protect yourself from stings. Wasps are less active at night and when temperatures are cooler. Always wait until nightfall before approaching a nest or treating. Follow these tips on how to get rid of wasps and hornets safely.
- Wear protective clothing in layers such as long sleeves, pants, enclosed shoes with socks and gloves. You may also want to wear a mask or covering for your mouth and nose to avoid inhaling aerosols and poisons being used.
- Always stand away from the nest while spraying and never directly underneath an aerial nest.
- Have a clear path from the nest if you need to step away quickly.
- Pay attention to wind direction and spray with it, not against it.
- It is a good idea to have a buddy with you to treat nests, especially if you’re allergic or have never been stung before and uncertain if you have a wasp venom allergy.
- Use a flashlight with a red filter to dim the light when treating nests at night and do not shine light directly onto the nest.
When you have located the wasp nest wait until after the sun sets to approach it for removal. Have a can of wasp killing spray or pesticide in hand. Spray the entrance to the nest and douse the entire area with the spray. Most products kill on contact, although you should leave the area slowly once you’ve sprayed as a precaution from rogue wasps. Once you have sprayed the entrance and doused the exterior of the nest, target the inside of the nest and spray to kill any hatching larvae. This process may need to repeated 2-3 times or every 14 days if you can’t take down the nest right away to ensure all immature wasps are dead.
For aerial nests: you want to look for a wasp or hornet killer that is labeled as a projectile spray giving you a stream of 15 – 20 feet. This will ensure the spray reaches the nest and targeted entrance while also providing you ample room to make a quick escape if necessary. You can also use a concentrated liquid insecticide specifically for wasps and hornets with a hand pump sprayer. After the nest has been sprayed and there is no threat of wasps inside you can knock it down or hose it down to remove it. Treat the attachment area as well once the nest has been removed.
For low-lying hornet nests such as in trees and branches you can bag the nest to dispose of it and the hornets inside. This approach can be risky and will require two people. Treat the nest prior to bagging by soaking in an insecticide and wait a few days to kill as many of the hornets inside. You will need protective gear that covers from head to toe and sealed at the wrists, ankles and collar such as a thick bee suit to protect you from stings. You will also need a strong plastic bag that is heavy-duty to resist tears. Place the bag directly underneath the nest for it to fall into. Use a long-handled trimmer to cut the branch the nest is attached to so that it falls into the bag. Spray an insecticide or wasp killer into the bag and close it up tight then dispose of immediately.
For nests that are located underground: Do not use a projectile aerosol wasp spray for underground nests. The best method with yellow jacket nests is a concentrated liquid insecticide and Pyrethrum aerosol or insecticide dust. You can also use a combination of each for optimal results. You will need a hand pump sprayer to add and dilute the liquid concentrate insecticide per the instructions on the product. Turn the nozzle of the sprayer on the pin stream setting and apply the liquid directly into the entrance of the nest. Use the Pyrethrum aerosol for any emerging yellow jackets to kill on contact and leave the area.
For insecticide dust you will need a hand duster to load the product according to the instructions. Apply the dust liberally to the entrance of the nest and walk away quickly. It may take a few days to weeks to kill the entire colony depending on size. Wait until the nest is completely dried then you can fill it with dirt, gravel, or sand to make it uninhabitable for future colonies.
If you prefer not to use an insecticide, underground yellow jacket nests can also be eradicated with a very simple method – boiling water. Better yet, use soap in the boiling water for added measure. Wait until dark after the sun sets before trying this method and take precautionary methods to protect yourself. Wear protective clothing and use thick pot holders or oven mitts to carry the pot. Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil and carefully pour it directly into the nest. Once the nest is dry fill it with gravel then pack with sand or dirt so the loose soil doesn’t cause a hazard for trips.
Some wasps, particularly yellow jackets, will find spaces in between the siding and roofing of your home to build their nests. Nests that are hidden in between wall spaces can be difficult to treat. You may need to hire a professional pest control service to rid the nest or apply other methods to kill off the adults that leave the nest until cooler weather eventually kills off the colony.
Traps can be used to attract and kill wasps, reducing the population and aid in controlling infestations. Wasp traps may be a suitable for option for people that have encountered wasps but can not locate a nest or the nest is not on their property. The ideal time to place wasp traps is at the very beginning of the warmer season, before the queen has begun her nesting ground to reduce the possibility of her forming a colony.
The two types of traps that are often used in wasp elimination consist of lure traps and bait traps. Lure traps contain a chemical compound designed to draw in wasps. Bait traps are comprised of a bait such as meat or sweets that wasps like and designed so that once the wasp enters the trap for the food they can not get out. You can purchase commercial wasp traps from retailers or build your own.
How to Get Rid of Wasps and Hornets with a DIY Trap?
You will need:
- Empty 2-liter bottle
- Scissors or box cutter
- Sugar water or fruit juice
Cut the neck of the bottle one-third of the way down from the top. Flip the ‘cone’ upside down and place inside the bottle so the nozzle is facing down then staple or tape it along the top edge. Fill the bottle partially with sugar water or fruit juice no more than halfway (soda or other sweet liquid will work as bait also). Be sure to pour some of your attractant around the top part of the cone to accentuate the bait. Once the wasp is drawn to the bait and enters the trap it will be unable to escape the conical entrance and eventually drown. You can add string to the sides of the bottle to hang up near awnings or anywhere near wasp sightings to attract and trap them. As a plus, these types of traps also attract other unwanted pests such as fruit flies.
Wasp traps may not be very effective in eradicating the problem, but they can keep the population to a minimum. These traps will need to be replaced or replenished frequently to attract future wasps. You may also need to do a little investigating to determine the site of the nest and place the traps strategically in areas within a reasonable distance that they’ll likely come across it.
For an occasional wasp you find in your home you can use a vacuum cleaner rather than toxic sprays or setting traps. Use the extension nozzle of your vacuum cleaner to suck up the insect then leave the canister or bag alone until it is dead before disposing it.
You can purchase specifically formulated wasp killers that come in a pressurized can to target and aim for nests at a distance such as Raid Wasp & Hornet Killer. Concentrated pesticides can also be purchased for use in a sprayer for aggressive treatment or cover more area where wasp populations are high.
Citrus Oil Extract: This botanical insecticide has gained popularity in killing various types of insects on contact. The active ingredients in citrus oil extract have been proven deadly to wasps when coming into direct contact. Have a bottle of citrus oil extract on hand for gardening or in areas where wasps are present to spray on contact.
Wasps can help gardens thrive by eating on other unwanted pests that could be detrimental to your garden. The problem is, however, many homeowners like to enjoy their gardens and the threat of wasps and other stinging insects could jeopardize that. Certain green plants can act as deterrents to keep wasps at bay. Eucalyptus, thyme, peppermint, citronella, and wormwood are all excellent natural repellents that deter wasps as well as other types of unwanted pests. Plant them in areas of your garden you like to work in regularly or enjoy to avoid an unpleasant encounter with a wasp.
In addition to planting mint plants, using peppermint oil around your home has been shown to keep stinging insects steer clear. If you spot wasp nests around your home you can apply peppermint oil to keep them away. Put a few drops on a cotton ball and place them around eaves, ledges, and other areas of your home that wasps like to build their nests.
Another way to deter wasps and hornets from making a nest near your home is by using a decoy. The belief behind this method is that social wasps are territorial; therefore, if they see an existing nest they will keep away. You can purchase an artificial nest from a hardware store or try hanging a brown paper bag on your porch and areas of high activity around your home to help keep them away. These may need to be replaced every year to keep them looking like new nests.
Preventing Wasp Infestations
The ultimate solution on how to get rid of wasps and hornets is to minimize their chances of finding an ideal place to create their nests. There are several contributing factors that can draw these insects to your home.
Trash cans are often a culprit to attracting yellow jackets. Keep all trash cans covered and follow sanitation methods for eliminating food sources. Don’t leave leftover food or beverages lying around outdoors and clean up spills right away. For outdoor pets, only put the amount of food and water they will eat in one feeding so there aren’t any leftovers to attract pests. If you like to put out bird feeders place them far away from your home and high traffic areas. The same goes for bird baths.
Some wasp species are attracted to fruits. If you have fruit trees or bushes be sure to pick the fruit regularly once they’re ripe. Fermented fruit can also attract other unwanted pests. Pick up any fallen or sour fruits right away and dispose properly.
Regularly inspect all areas around your home for repairs. Cracks and crevices can create entry points or access to ideal locations for unwanted pests to build their nests and lay eggs. Yellow jackets will often find voids in walls and attics to build their nests in. Ensure screens, windows, and doors are all in good working condition and make necessary repairs to rips, tears, or cracks in the frames.