C. L. Grant is a homemaker and domestic gardener. She lives in an old 1930's house, in a semi-rural part of the UK.
What Are Yellow Jacket Wasps?
The two most common species of social wasp in the UK are the Common Wasp (Vespula Vulgaris) and the German Wasp (Vespula Germanica). In the States, these are often referred to as yellow jacket wasps.
Social wasps form colonies and build their nests above ground. They can be aggressive when provoked and will inflict a painful sting while defending their nest. The yellow jacket nest is usually inhabited for only one summer season. After that time, the queen will fly away and hibernate for the winter.
Unless the wasp nest is causing you significant harm or inconvenience, then it may be better to leave well alone.
This was my initial reaction upon discovering that a social wasp colony had made their home in the privet hedge of my front garden. After all, they would only be there for a couple of months. Also, it should not be forgotten that wasps play an important ecological role as predators that kill greenfly, caterpillars and other insects that destroy plants and crops.
As far as I can tell, it was the German wasp that was squatting in my privet hedge. Unfortunately, due to its proximity to the house, letting it stay was not a viable option for me. I was also concerned about the possibility of my grandchildren and pets being stung.
How to Find the Wasp Nest
The first problem I had was actually finding the wasp nest, which was far easier said than done. The nest needs to be visible before any treatment can be applied. The privet hedge in my garden is roughly 6 feet tall and between 2 to 3 feet wide.
Initially, I struggled to find the nest. However, by looking down onto the hedge from an upstairs window, I was able to pinpoint where the wasps were entering and leaving the nest (see photo below).
Over a period of several days, I carefully cut back the hedge using a telescopic pruning lopper. This meant that I was roughly 3 feet away from the hedge while trimming back the foliage. I did not use a ladder and was always on solid ground and ready to make a run for it, if needed. I also had a can of wasp insect killer spray to hand, just in case!
As wasps react to vibration, it is vital that you do not use any power tools, such as an electric hedge trimmer. This is one sure-fire way to send the wasps into a frenzy. Always use hand tools from a safe distance.
You also need to be patient and take your time. Make sure that you do not disturb the nest by cutting any branches that have been incorporated into its construction.
Eventually, I managed to expose the wasp nest and was ready to move on to the next phase of destroying it.
Removing the Wasp Nest by Yourself
Remember, you should only attempt to destroy the wasp nest on your own if all of the following apply:
- You are not allergic to wasp stings.
- The nest is easily accessible.
- The nest is relatively small.
- There is not significant wasp activity in the vicinity of the nest.
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If you have any doubts whatsoever, then always call in a professional exterminator.
If you are confident that you can remove a wasp nest by yourself, you should:
- Wear protective clothing that covers your entire body. (See equipment below).
- Wear sensible shoes - you may need to run!
- Keep children and pets indoors.
- Keep windows closed.
- Plan your exit route.
- Remove the nest at night time. (Wasps are less active and aggressive.)
- Avoid using a torch. (This will alert the wasps.)
When Is the Best Time to Tackle a Wasp Nest?
Early morning or late evening is the best time to tackle the wasp nest. The wasps are not as active at these times and will be asleep in the nest. Hence, you are more likely to succeed at destroying the colony.
However, you do need to take your safety into consideration. You must be able to see where the nest is and have your escape route ready. Also, it is best not to alert the wasps by shining a torch at them. Remember, you do not have to kill all of the wasps in one go. Striking the right balance is extremely important.
Below are five methods for tackling a wasp nest.
Method #1: Leave the Nest Alone
If the nest is not bothering you, then you are best advised to leave well alone. Come the winter, the wasps will begin to die off from starvation. The nest will become redundant and will not be used by a new queen the following spring. However, it is possible that a new nest may be built nearby.
Even though I am not allergic to wasp stings, the nest was too close to the house. As I have already explained, I was concerned about my grandchildren and pets getting stung. Also, I was afraid to open the windows for fear of the wasps getting inside. Hence, as much as I appreciate the benefits that wasps offer, the nest had to go.
Method #2: Relocate the Nest
Personally, this is not something that I would recommend, but it may be an option if the nest is relatively small. As you can see from the photographs of my wasp nest, it appears to be entwined among the branches and probably not the easiest to detach.
Should you decide to move your wasp nest, then you need to establish where a suitable spot may be. You will need a sturdy plastic container, with a lid, that is large enough for the nest to fit into. Again, at nighttime, carefully place the container over the wasp nest, making sure not to touch it. Next, slide the lid between the nest and the spot where the nest is attached to the hedge, thus detaching the nest. It should then fall into the container.
Securely place the lid on the container and transport it to its desired location. After several hours, you can go back and very carefully remove the lid from the container. As the nest cannot be reattached, you should leave it alone in the open container.
Method #3: Apply Soapy Water
I must confess that I tried this option, albeit with little success. The idea is that you can drown the wasps using water and dishwashing liquid (or washing up liquid in the UK). This may be feasible if the nest is in the early stages of development and is still rather small. However, it was impractical in my case, as the wasp nest in my hedge was rather sizable.
Using a garden sprayer, you mix some dishwashing liquid with water and apply liberally to the nest. Ideally, you want the liquid to get inside the nest and drown the wasps. I tried this first as it seemed to be the most environmentally-friendly way to kill the nest. Unfortunately, it had little effect.
Alternatively, depending upon its location, you may be able to submerge the nest in a plastic container of soapy water. In my case, the nest was too high from the ground to even consider this method.
Method #4: Puff Wasp Insecticide Powder
You can purchase wasp insecticide powder that you are supposed to "puff" into the holes of the nest, assuming that you can find all of them. I dismissed this option, as I was concerned about the powder spreading and possibly coming into contact with children and pets. I am also asthmatic and did not want to risk breathing in any of the chemicals, contained in the powder.
If you do decide to use an insecticide powder, make sure sure that you are wearing a dust mask over your face, as well as the protective clothing detailed below.
Method #5: Spray Wasp Nest Insecticide Foam
I used a Rentokil wasp nest destroyer foam that can be sprayed from a minimum distance of 6 feet. The active ingredients in the foam I used were tetramethrin and d-phenothrin. Different brands have slightly different active ingredients, but most contain tetramethrin or a derivative of it.
When applying the foam, my natural instinct was to get closer to the nest than I really needed to. However, as the reach of the foam was extremely good, I found myself stepping back away from the nest. The consistency of the foam was also quite thick, and it did not drip.
I applied the foam in the early evening, as that is when I felt most comfortable and safe doing it. The following morning, there were roughly 10 wasps circling the nest. I had plenty of foam left over in the can and applied a second application later that day.
As there was still foam left in the container, I was ready to apply a third application, if needed. However, I was extremely pleased to discover that the nest had been destroyed, and there were no signs of any wasps.
Applying the foam was probably the easiest part of the process. The most difficult part was cutting back the hedge to locate the nest. However, do keep an eye on the nest. If you did not manage to kill the queen wasp, she will continue to reproduce and your nest will come back to life.
What Equipment Do You Need?
Here's a list of the equipment and products you'll need:
- Telescopic Pruning Loppers
- Protective Clothing (Must cover entire body)
- Sturdy Shoes/Trainers
- Beekeeper/Mosquito Hat
- Insect Repellent (To apply to yourself)
- Wasp Killer Spray Can
- Wasp Nest Destroyer Foam
The insecticide foam I used contains tetramethrin and permethrin. The above wasp and hornet killer foam spray contains the active ingredients cypermethrin and prallethrin. The can is 14 oz, which is larger than the 300 ml can I used. I managed two thorough applications of the wasp nest, and there was still some left in the container.
How to Treat a Wasp Sting at Home
If you are allergic to wasp stings or have any doubts about whether or not you are, then you should always call in a professional exterminator to destroy your wasp nest. If you do get stung and display any signs of an allergic reaction, such as swelling and difficulties breathing, you must seek immediate medical attention. You may be experiencing anaphylaxis, which can lead to anaphylactic shock. This can be fatal.
The following advice only applies to those individuals, like myself, who are not allergic to wasp stings.
- Wash the affected area in clean, soapy water, removing any signs of the venom or sting immediately.
- As the venom from a wasp sting is alkaline, you can apply household vinegar to help neutralize its effect. (This is the first thing that I did). However, some medical sources claim this treatment is ineffective. It is also important that you do not confuse wasps with bees. A bee sting is acidic and therefore needs an application of an alkaline treatment, such as a paste made out of baking soda.
- Take an antihistamine tablet such as Claritin, Benadryl or Zyrtec, as this will help with itching and swelling. Each of these brands uses a different active ingredient, so you need to find the one that works best for you. As an asthma and allergy sufferer, I am prescribed antihistamines all year round. For a long time, I used Claritin which contains loratadine. However, over a period of time, this became less effective and two years ago, I switched to Zyrtec which contains cetirizine hydrochloride. Benadryl contains the active ingredient diphenhydramine HCI. You do need to be careful while using these types of medications as they can make you drowsy. You should not use antihistamines long-term, without consulting your medical practitioner first. Some users report experiencing withdrawal symptoms after using cetirizine hydrochlorid, such as severe itching (pruritus) and anxiety.
- Apply an ice pack to the affected area for 20 minutes. This provides some relief from the pain and can be repeated if necessary.
- Take pain relief medication if required.
- Apply hydrocortisone creme such as Cortizone-10 or an anti-histamine product such as Benadryl anti-itch creme. These should help relieve the itchiness, redness and swelling.
- Keele University Arboretum. All You Want to Know About Wasps. Retrieved July 11, 2018.
- WebMD. Treatment of Bee and Wasp Stings. Retrieved July 11, 2018.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2018 C L Grant
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on July 11, 2018:
Thanks for this information regarding how to exterminate a wasp nest. Hopefully I will never have to put this information to good use but it is nice to know about that foam application you used. Will pin this to my gardening section.