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Getting Rid of Wasps

Updated on January 9, 2017
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Avid, self-taught gardener (I learn as problems arise), bird watcher, and nature lover.

Yellow Jacket
Yellow Jacket | Source

In most cases, the benefits of these winged insects usually outweigh the potential harm they may cause to humans. However, if nests are in high traffic areas then humans will have a problem coping.

When a nest is not posing any immediate threat to pets or people, it can be left for the season and removed during cooler weather. However, there are times when control is necessary. I will go into the types of wasps, the different methods of control, and the signs of an allergic reactions both non-threatening and threatening that a sting can cause.

Social Family

These social-winged insects can make nests in attics, under roofs, in cracks around the house, in hollowed out logs or even in objects that gives them a nice opening with a strong shelter.

The broad comb made of wood fibers and saliva is where larvae are reared. The nest will look like an inverted umbrella with open ends. Workers will cling to the underside of the nest guarding, feeding and performing housekeeping chores. As you might expect, this insect is a carnivore, feeding on caterpillars and flies. Amazingly, the wasp will chew up their victims’ bodies into a paste and feed it to the larvae. In return, the larva creates sweet syrup that is consumed by the adults.

Caste Structure

1. Queen - Female - fertile and creator of the colony

2. Drone - Male - develops from unfertilized egg.

3. Caste Worker - Unmated adult females

The caste structure is built around aggressive interactions. If the queen cannot sustain its dominant role, another fertile adult female will take over the responsibility of laying eggs.

Included in the social-winged insect's family are:

Paper wasps build their nest under horizontal surfaces, which includes eaves, tree limbs, overhangs and abandoned structures. This insect is one of the most harmless species of this family. The only time they become a pest is when they establish a nest around human traffic.

Hornets are the most fearsome looking and territorial but yet, far less aggressive than the yellow jacket.

Yellow Jackets are the most distinctive, having a thick waist and bright yellow patterns. These insects are aggressive and territorial. They will defend the nest until their own demise. Of all three in this social family, the yellow jacket is considered the ultimate pest.They are sometimes referred to as meat wasps.

Blue Mud Dauber
Blue Mud Dauber | Source

Solitary Family

The solitary wasp is elegant in appearance, having a very long, thin body and waist, but yet, not particularly colorful. All adults are fertile.

Their nesting habits are diverse. Some will not build nests, while other females will build a nest solely for herself and her offspring. In other cases, she will lay her eggs in their prey's nest or attach them to the larvae of insects like butterflies and moths. This method allows the larvae a ready feast upon hatching.

They are the most docile and their stingers are usually used for hunting and not for defense.

In most cases, they show little to no aggression towards humans or other large animals.Moreover, they are considered beneficial insects to the gardener, killing garden pests like aphids and beetles.

The following are within the solitary family:

1. Mud-daubers

2. Spider, Digger, Potter, and Pollen wasps

Benefits

When these flying insects are swooping at you, it's hard to fathom that they can be beneficial to humans and the environment. Let me give you a quick sampling of some of their positive aspects.

1. They are natural scavengers. For example, the yellow jacket may scavenge for dead insects to give to their young.

2. The different species of wasps hunt white flies, beetle larvae, spiders, aphids, caterpillars and other insects, either feeding upon or using the insects to provision their nests. For example, the blue mud dauber is considered beneficial because they help to regulate the population of black and brown widow spiders.

3. They can pollinate plants and crops. The fig wasps of the tropics are responsible for pollinating almost 1000 species of figs.

As you can see, they do offers benefits for humans and the environment. When these insects maintain their distance from humans all can co-exist. However, when these flying insects comes swooping down at you or a member of your family is allergic to it's sting, then you have a problem.

How to Get Rid of Wasps

Though these insects are important to controlling the predatory insect population and as pollinators, you do have to draw the line when they become a danger to you in your own yard, house or garden. Here are some simple methods used when these flying insects intrude into your domain and just won't go away:

1. Citrus oil extract. However, some question the toxicity of the ingredients, limonene and linalool has on mammals. My advice, use it with care.

2. To get rid of hornets use wasp killer spray that can kill them on contact.

3. To keep them from the immediate area you can use mothballs. In fact, I put four or five mothballs in a nylon sock, knotted it, and put it in the back of our mailbox and a side door that we don't use. Yes, I had these little beats trying to make a nest in my mailbox.

I do know the mail carrier didn't like it because I seen my mail on the ground. That definitely did not make me happy. Though my mailbox does not smell very sweet, it solved my and the mail carrier's problem.

4. Wasp traps

Yellow Jacket Nest
Yellow Jacket Nest | Source

Getting Rid of Nests

Usually the best time to get rid of a nest is in the late evening or every early morning. Some have even suggested going out when it is dark because they will be less likely to come out to fight.

To protect yourself you should dress in multiple layers of clothing with gloves and a mask to protect you from inhaling the fumes.

1. Projectile spray - Projectile wasp spray works for elevated nests. A projectile spray, like Raid, will allow some distance between you and them, usually 15-20 feet. Spray liberally. Once you are sure all are dead, you can remove the nest.

2. Use a pressurized bug bomb - Standing a few feet away, aim the bomb right into the mouth of the nest. Even if the bomb falls outside the mouth, the wasps will be destroyed along with the nest. (Be sure to follow instructions).

A pressurized bug bomb works great for a fireplace or in an attic. Just be sure to cover all openings so the insects cannot escape. Then slip in a can of D-Con, Raid or a Spectracide insect bomb. After you have bombed the area, be sure to air the area out well. As you might expect, the bomb can smell nasty. One final note, remember that this aerosol bomb is highly flammable so make sure you do not but a bug bomb in an attic that has a gas furnace.

3. Underground or hanging nest- For underground nests you will want to use a wasp killer that is not labeled as a "projectile spray".

No matter where the nest is located, you will need to repeat the process two to three times to make sure that the wasps have permanently left. Once you see no traffic, it will be safe to knock down or fill the nest with dirt or gravel if it is in the ground.

Prevention

Here are some simple ways in which you can keep these pests from taking up residence around your home.

1. Keep your garbage bags tightly sealed and in garbage can. They like to hover around garbage cans for food.

2. Keeps lawns clean. They prefer to build nests where there is overgrowth. Thus, clean up the overgrowth.

3. If you have fruit trees, pick up the fallen ones and pluck the fruit when ripe. They love the sweetness of the fruit. My husband can attest to their love of fruit when he got stung by one when he was picking some of our apples with his bare hands.

4. Remove sources of food. In the spring and summer, they are attracted to anything that contains protein.

5. Seal all points of entry. Which means, filling cracks in walls, around doorway entrances, and other possible openings.

Bee Sting-Allergic or Hypersensitive Reactions

An allergic reaction to a sting can develop anywhere on the body. Some reactions to a sting, though painful, are not life threatening. Some non life-threatening symptoms are:

1. Hives

2. Swelling

3. Nausea

4. Vomiting

5. Abdominal cramps

6. Headaches

With non life-threatening reactions to a sting, antihistamines can help fight the reaction. (Be sure to use the antihistamine according to a physician's instructions.)

On the other end of the spectrum, there are people who have life-threatening reactions to a wasp string. Such as:

1. Dizziness

2. Unconsciousness

3. Difficulty breathing

4. Swelling of the throat

5. Shock

With a life-threatening reaction, immediate medical care is needed. Sometimes an individual will react to the sting immediately, and in other cases, it may take 30 minutes before symptoms develop.

People who are aware that they are allergic to stings should carry a sting kit (which is a normal syringe or an auto-injector (Epi-Pen). It may seem like an inconvenience but it can save a person's life.

Many people can successfully take care of their wasp problem. However, if you feel the job is too much for you to handle, enlist the help of a professional. Why? They have the equipment, tools and poison that can get the job done quickly and without anyone being stung.

References

Wasps and Yellow Jackets - http://ag.arizona.edu/yavapai/anr/hort/byg/archive/waspsandyellowjackets.html

Social Wasps - https://projects.ncsu.edu/cals/course/ent425/tutorial/Social/wasps.html

Solitary Wasps - http://www.cornellpress.cornell.edu/book/?GCOI=80140100916150

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