Wasps are beneficial to the environment. They help keep harmful insects away from your home by preying on them. However, when wasps build large nests and threaten children and pets, they become a nuisance.
To get rid of wasps, start by eliminating food sources that attract them. Then, use a powerful spray solution to knock down their nests. Also, be sure to seal any holes where they may enter houses or other structures.
In this extensive guide, we’ll show you how to identify wasps. Then, you’ll discover how to get rid of them on your own. Next, we’ll answer common questions about wasps, including tips for treating wasp stings.
Ed has been working in the pest control industry for years helping 1,000's of homeowners navigate the world of insect and rodent management. He manages Pest Strategies now helping homeowners around the world!
Table of Contents
How To Identify Types of Wasps
Wasps are social insects, meaning many individuals share a single nest. There are thousands of different species of wasps. In this section, you’ll learn how to identify the most common ones you may encounter in the U.S.
Paper wasps gather pulp from trees and plants to make paper-like material for their nests. There are about 27 species in the U.S. and an estimated 300 worldwide.
Paper wasps are 20 millimeters to 40 millimeters (0.78 inches to 1.57 inches) in length and have a combination of red, yellow, and orange on their bodies.
You probably won’t get stung by paper wasps unless you get too close to the nest. Normally, they aren’t aggressive. However, they will defend their territory if attacked.
Yellowjackets are also in the wasp family. You can find them in almost every part of the world. Despite minor differences in appearance, their identification is relatively easy.
Workers of most yellowjacket species measure about 12 millimeters (0.5 inches) in length. In addition, they have alternating stripes of black and yellow throughout their bodies. This feature helps distinguish them from other species of wasps.
Wasp queens emerge in late spring to build paper nests and to lay their eggs. After hatching, female workers take over the job of caring for the colony. By late summer, there can be up to 5,000 workers in a single nest.
Yellowjackets sting multiple times. They do this for two reasons:
1. Killing their prey
2. Defending their nests
Yellowjackets are aggressive and will sting you just for passing through their territory. Unlike other species, they will pursue their attackers until they eliminate them.
Hornets are closely related to yellowjackets and paper wasps. They make their nests from a combination of tree materials and saliva, and you can often find them around eaves and overhangs.
It can be easy to confuse hornets with other species of wasps. This is because they have a similar pattern combination of yellow and black. However, they are typically larger, reaching up to 2.5 inches in length.
Hornets are also one of the most aggressive wasp species. This is because their attack pheromones are potent, and they will sting multiple times without warning.
Mud daubers are long, slender wasps that reach up to one inch long. Their bodies are mostly black, and the only yellow you can find is on their legs and small stripes just above their heads.
Mud daubers build their nests on the side of walls, overhangs, and other structures. Some species refurbish other wasp nests to use for themselves.
Mud daubers are generally not aggressive, and stings are usually rare. However, they will defend their nest when they perceive attacks by predators.
Signs & Causes of Infestation
Signs of a wasp problem around your home include increased live activity. Wasps typically nest under eaves, overhangs, and porch ceilings. So, if you see at least one or two of these developing, you could have a wasp infestation.
Hornets build nests in protected sites. Barns, hollow trees, and wall voids are all favorite spots. Also, what’s amazing is that hornet nests can grow to over the size of a basketball.
Mud daubers typically build a series of single tubular cells made from wet sand or mud. They can even be shaped like disorganized globs of earth. Look for them under eaves, in garages, or other enclosed, protected areas.
Causes of wasp infestations include:
Access to Safe Harborage
If you have a porch, you’re a candidate for wasp invasions. Also, holes in eaves and overhangs don’t help. Wasps are always searching for a place to hide their nests from predators, and your home is typically an ideal spot to achieve that goal.
Easy Access to Food
Most wasp species prefer sweet foods. They also eat protein sources such as raw or cooked meat. For those reasons, open garbage cans are choice locations for an easy supply of food for wasps.
If you have a garden, expect at least a few wasps to scope it out once in a while. That’s because it’s full of tasty insects. So, you may notice a few wasps just above ground waiting to pounce on their prey.
Many people mistake wasps for honey bees.
First, honey bees have hairy bodies while wasps are smooth. The honey bee is plump, while the wasp is narrower in the middle. Finally, wasps are much more aggressive. The honey bee will not attack unless provoked.
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How To Get Rid Of Wasps
Several methods are available to homeowners for eliminating wasp colonies. However, it’s best to protect yourself, no matter what technique you use.
Be sure to wear protective clothing such as:
- A long-sleeved shirt
- Long pants
- Beekeeping hood
- Welders gloves
Sure, wearing long sleeves during the summer months may feel uncomfortable. However, it’s better than being riddled with wasp stings.
Here are some of the most common remedies for wasps:
This DIY home solution is a favorite for people who don’t want to use chemical aerosols for knocking down wasp nests. First, pour about 1/4 cup of dish soap into a 26-ounce hose end sprayer. Next, fill it with water.
Spray the nest with the nozzle set to full power. Continue for a few minutes, even while the nest is on the ground. Also, it’s best to spray just after dusk when wasps are subdued.
The soap will help immobilize the insects so they can’t fly. Still, it’s best to use caution, especially if a few solitary wasps manage to escape.
Wasp Repellent Aerosol
Using a knockdown aerosol spray will ensure that no wasps survive after treating the nest. Most of these products shoot a stream up to 15 feet. Also, they disable all wasps in the nest until they’re eliminated.
For best results, spray the nest just after dusk. Wasps will be in their nest and mostly inactive.
Stand back as far as possible while spraying. Also, try to hit the nest directly to get all the wasps. Be sure to empty the entire contents of the can for maximum killing effect.
Hornet sprays are similar to other wasp sprays. However, they usually don’t project as far. So, it’s vital to wear protective clothing when treating hornets.
Plan on spraying right after the sun goes down. Nighttime is when hornets are the least active, and it’s the best time to kill wasps.
There are several types of wasp traps available. Here are just a few examples of the best ones to consider:
The majority of wasp traps you can buy are the hanging variety. You hang them outdoors around a porch or patio. They combine a mixture of water and sugar to form a powerful bait.
Wasps are attracted to the sugar. Once lured into the trap, they can’t escape. After a few hours, they’ll drown in the water.
There are several styles of hanging wasp traps. Some have a glass or plastic container that you fill with homemade sugar water. Others come as a self-contained pouch that has the sweet mixture already made.
UV Light Traps
Electric traps use UV light to attract wasps. They typically have a glue board inside to hold the wasp as soon as it enters. Others are traditional bug zappers you can bait with any food material.
Most people buy these traps for mosquito control. However, you can use them for stinging pests as well. They’re especially effective when baiting with a sweet attractant.
DIY Wasp Traps
It’s almost effortless to make your own wasp nest from common household materials. You’ll need a two-liter soda bottle, a carpenter’s knife, and about a cup of sugar water.
First, cut off the top third of the soda bottle with the carpenter’s knife. Next, pour the sugar water into the open bottle. Finally, turn the top upside down and place it into the bottle to form a funnel.
The sugar water will attract the wasps. But, once in, they can’t get out, so they’ll drown. That’s because wasps have a difficult time flying toward small openings.
Pyrethrin is a powerful insecticide made from crushed chrysanthemum flowers. To kill wasps, you can purchase it in dust form. Then, you can apply it to wasps nesting in eaves and overhangs.
It’s best to use a bellow duster for optimal control. Apply a few puffs inside a wall void, hollow tree, or open cavity where wasps have made their nest. However, be sure to use an OSHA-approved respirator when using these pesticides to protect your lungs.
How To Prevent Wasps
Most wasp species have natural predators such as birds, small animals, and other insects. However, relying on them may not be enough. It takes a proactive approach to keep wasps away from your home.
Sweet foods, proteins, and other substances attract wasps. For that reason, they invade open trash containers. So, it’s important to keep lids tightly sealed, especially during the summer months.
Also, it’s essential to clean up any soda spills immediately. Candy and other sugary foods left outdoors are a magnet for wasps. So, the less you have out for them to eat, the better.
It’s best not to make it easy for wasps to infest indoor spaces. Be sure to repair damaged eaves and overhangs. Also, you should screen areas where wasps can enter into an attic.
Plug pipe entry points with steel wool or expansion foam. As a final measure, seal small cracks and crevices with silicone caulking or foam material.
There’s no scientific evidence that fake wasps nests work. However, some have gotten rave reviews from prior customers who use them regularly. For that reason, it may be worthwhile to string a few up and see what happens.
The idea here is that wasps won’t build their nests near a competing colony. However, some people have had excellent results with fake nests, while others have not. So, it’s essential to read the customer reviews carefully before buying.
Ultrasonic Insect Repellers
Like fake nests, there’s no documented evidence that ultrasonic repellents work for insects. There are even some studies proving they don’t work. Still, some people swear by them.
The idea is to use an ultrasonic signal that only insects can hear. Once detected, they will stay away since it is an annoyance for them. Also, most are convenient to use. Just plug them in and wait for results.
Top Recommended Companies
Not all pest control providers in the U.S. offer wasp control. However, there are several that do. Here are the top three we recommend:
- Terminix technicians know how to bring down wasp nests in the fastest, safest possible manner. They make use of the best commercial wasp killers available. They are all licensed and bonded, as you would expect from true professionals.
- Aptive Environmental starts its eco-friendly wasp control program with correct identification. Only then can it employ its proven management system using the best commercial sprays.
- Orkin trains its technicians to utilize the most advanced methods for removing wasps from a home or business. It employs earth-based borates for long-term control. It also makes use of mechanical exclusion, so they don’t return.
The best approach to finding a professional exterminator in your area is to get referrals from other people. Next, it’s essential to get recommendations from prior customers on review sites. Finally, make sure the company you hire to handle your wasp problem is licensed and insured in your state.
Wasp Removal FAQs
How can you tell wasps from honey bees?
Many people mistake wasps for honey bees. That’s because they are somewhat similar in flight, appearance, and behavior. However, there are several differences.
First, honey bees have hairy bodies while wasps are smooth. Although both honey bees and wasps are similar in size, they have different shapes. The honey bee is plump, while the wasp is narrower in the middle.
Finally, wasps are much more aggressive. The honey bee will not attack unless provoked. In contrast, the wasp will pursue its prey and enemies for great distances.
How long will a wasp nest last?
A paper wasp’s nest typically lasts about three to four months, on average. The wasp queen lays her eggs throughout the summer months, stopping in early fall.
When that happens, the rest of the colony dies. However, the queen will stay in the nest for another few weeks until hibernation.
What is the point of wasps?
Wasps are a great help to the environment. They keep the insect populations in check. Wasps are also beneficial as food for birds, reptiles, and small mammals.
Are wasps pollinators?
Wasps visit flowers to feed on their nectar or prey on insects. For that reason, they passively transfer pollen. However, they are not as efficient in that role as honey bees.
What’s the best way to treat wasp stings?
Most people have only a mild reaction to wasp stings. About five percent of the U.S. population is allergic to them. In severe cases, a sting can bring about a severe reaction.
To treat a wasp sting, follow these steps:
- Find and remove the stinger with tweezers
- Wash the area thoroughly
- Apply a cold compress for 20 minutes
- Gently spread calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream on the affected area
- Some essential oils in a spray bottle may provide temporary relief from pain
- Call 911 for allergic reactions or if your symptoms persist
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