The Complete Guide to How to Get Rid of Wasps

children playing in a lawn with a wasp nest

The Complete Guide to How to Get Rid of Wasps

Spring and summer lead to more time playing outdoors and enjoying the weather. Unfortunately, it can also mean wasps take up residence around your yard, porch, and home. A wasp infestation can be annoying, painful, and even potentially dangerous. This guide will help you identify the wasps on your property and determine how to get rid of wasps, no matter where they built their nest.

5 Common Types of Wasps

Before you determine how to get rid of wasps, you need to figure out what type of wasps are invading your space and exactly where their nest is located. Knowing the difference between wasps and bees is the first step in determining the species that is invading your property. There are a few distinguishing traits that make wasps stand out. While bees are hairy, with rounded bodies, wasps have a slender, tapered waist that connects their abdomen and thorax. Wasps are also smooth and shiny.

When you think of wasps, you may only think of one type of insect. However, there are several types of wasps, some of which you probably didn’t realize are part of the wasp family. These are some of the most common wasps.

1. Paper Wasps

These are the type of wasps that most people think of. They often build nests near the entryways of homes. While they won’t sting unless feeling threatened, sudden movements or slamming doors can be a trigger. Paper wasps tend to swarm if they feel the colony is threatened.

  • Size: 3/4 to 1 inch long
  • Color: Mostly brownish-black with red or yellow striping along their head and abdomen
  • Nest Characteristics: Nests are created of paper-like materials, shaped like umbrellas, and are typically built under eaves and ledges.

2. Hornets

There are different types of hornets which may vary in size and color. Some species look similar to yellowjackets but are typically larger. Hornets aren’t typically aggressive, but nests can contain hundreds of worker bees that become extremely angry when disturbed.

  • Size: About 1.25 inches
  • Color: Bald-faced hornets are black with black or pale yellow stripes. Giant European hornets are yellow and brown.
  • Nest Characteristics: Nests resemble a large grayish tear-shaped ball. Nests are typically attached to a bush, tree, or the side of a building. They can also be found in attics, barns, and hollow walls.

3. Yellowjackets

Yellowjackets are easily agitated and will vigorously defend their nest.

  • Size: 3/8 to 5/8 inch
  • Color: Bright yellow and black striped pattern
  • Nest Location: Typically in the ground, nests are often created from abandoned animal burrows. Nests are also sometimes located inside structures or hang from structures.

4. Cicada Killers

These are solitary wasps that aren’t typically a threat. However, the nests are located in the ground and can be a problem in high-traffic areas like yards. Cicada killers are sometimes mistaken for hornets but aren’t generally aggressive.

  • Size: Around 2 inches long
  • Color: Brownish and yellow with reddish or orange legs
  • Nest Characteristics: Nests are holes in the ground, often in flower beds or yards. While they don’t have colonies, they reproduce quickly and can become overwhelming.

5. Mud Daubers

Solitary wasps that don’t live in colonies, mud daubers are typically docile and do not swarm. While you may see a few of these flying around your home in the summer months, they generally don’t represent an infestation or any danger.

  • Size: 1/2 to 1 inch
  • Color: Mostly black with yellow markings on legs and thorax
  • Nest Characteristics: Built from mud, the nests can be globular or organ shaped and are designed to house a female and her offspring. Nests are located in protected places like electric motors, sheds, and against house siding or porch ceilings.

How Can I Avoid Getting Stung by Wasps?

Avoid wearing bright colors and sweet-smelling perfumes. Also, remove food sources, and avoid any sudden movements near the nests.

In the late summer when wasp colonies are at their most populated, they are easily agitated and often hungry. While it’s true that wasps only sting when provoked, making them angry can be easier than you think. Both dark and bright clothing or the smell of perfumes and body sprays can be mistaken for food sources. Sudden movements like slamming doors, flapping hands, or running children and pets may be perceived as a threat to the colony and result in painful stings.

Products for Getting Rid of Wasps

Some of the most common tools for how to get rid of wasps include:

Aerosols

These sprays can be used 15 to 20 feet away from a nest and should be used liberally to completely drench the nest. It’s important to note that aerosol sprays are oil-based and can leave stains.

Insecticide Dust

Dusts are typically sprayed where wasps enter and exit nests. They can be effective up to six months in areas where dust is protected.

Liquid Insecticides

These sprays are effective against a variety of pests and can be used where there’s an infestation. Spraying around typical nesting areas can be an effective prevention method.

Bait Traps

Useful for smaller issues that aren’t full infestations, bait traps use food to trap wasps. They can be used to remove wasps when you can’t locate the nests.

How to Get Rid of Wasps with a DIY Wasp Trap

DIY wasp traps in a tree

You can make your own wasp trap from an empty soda bottle. Use scissors or a knife to cut off the top part of the bottle just below the area where it begins to slope. Add a half cup of soda, a piece of deli meat, and a quarter cup of vinegar to the bottom part of the bottle. Flip the top half upside down and insert it into the bottom part until cut edges are aligned. Use a hole punch to put a hole in each side and attach a string to hang.

Wasps will slide into the bottle and be unable to fly out.

Safety Gear

Most wasps in a colony are there to defend the nest. It’s vital to protect yourself from stings while getting rid of wasps. Make sure to cover any exposed skin and protect your eyes when attempting to remove wasps. Use the following safety gear:

  • Long pants
  • Long sleeve shirt or coat
  • Goggles
  • Fully enclosed shoes

Pro Tip:

Insect repellents that you typically wear to deter mosquitoes and flies may actually attract yellowjackets with its scent. Don’t wear this while investigating wasp infestations.

The Dangers of Wasps in and Around the Home

A wasp colony can contain thousands of wasps. These wasps may not be immediately visible until after you receive the first sting. Most people mistakenly believe wasps are naturally aggressive because they quickly receive several stings. The real reason you often get stung more than once is that wasps can send out pheromones to their colony nearby. This insect 911 call is designed to get the threat — you — under control quickly.

No matter what the reason, multiple wasp stings can be painful and even potentially life-threatening to those who are allergic. If you have a colony near the entrances of your home, in the yard, or other areas your family frequently spends time, it’s likely that stings will result. Learning how to get rid of wasps is essential if you’re allergic to their stings.

When Are Wasp Stings Dangerous?

A dangerous allergic reaction to a wasp sting can include severe facial swelling, difficulty breathing, and lightheadedness. Swelling, itching, and pain are commonly experienced after a wasp sting, but severe allergic reactions can be life-threatening. Seek immediate medical attention for these symptoms after a wasp sting:

  • Severe swelling of the face, lips, or throat
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Hives on other areas of the body
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • Loss of consciousness
  • A weak or racing pulse

How to Get Rid of Wasps Safely: DON’T DO THIS!

When you’re learning how to get rid of wasps, safety is a number one priority. Unfortunately, there are many dangerous myths surrounding wasp removal. Understanding which methods don’t work or can be dangerous in other ways will help you avoid injury and help you find methods that work safely. For safe wasp removal, avoid all of these methods:

  • DO NOT pour flammable liquids into the ground. It won’t reach all the wasps in a colony, and it can spread to contaminate the groundwater supply.
  • DO NOT attempt to knock down a large nest containing live wasps. Whether you succeed or not, you will likely get stung multiple times.
  • DO NOT try DIY vacuum extraction with any type of shop or household vacuum cleaner. It is ineffective and dangerous.
  • DO NOT try to destroy a ground nest with boiling water or large amounts of cold water. You will likely miss the true entryway and anger a large colony of wasps.
  • DO NOT attempt to burn a hanging nest. The worst-case scenario is that you destroy your home in an attempt to get rid of the wasps. Even the best-case scenario leaves you facing a swarm of furious wasps.

When You’re Being Attacked

  • DO NOT swat at wasps. They’ll only become more aggressive.
  • DO NOT jump into a body of water. The wasps will be waiting when you emerge.
  • DO NOT try to fool wasps by playing dead. They will just keep stinging you.

If you are attacked by wasps, protect your head and face. If you must run away, do so in a straight line without flailing your hands or arms. Get inside your home or another building if possible. Even if a few wasps follow you inside, they’ll get disoriented by the change in light.

If you’ve been stung multiple times, take an over-the-counter allergy medication like Benadryl. Remove any stingers that remain in your skin. Watch for symptoms of an allergic reaction and contact a doctor immediately if you begin to feel ill.

How to Get Rid of Wasps in the House

Wasps will build their nests anywhere that is warm, dry, quiet, and allows them constant access. Unfortunately, this means wasps sometimes build nests in little-used areas inside the home or homes that have been recently left empty. Wasps can gain access through very small openings and may get in around roof rafters or even inhabit cavities inside walls. Learning how to get rid of wasps in the house can be a challenge and might require professional assistance. Use these steps to learn how to get rid of wasp in your house.

1. Locate the Nest

Wasps in your home don’t necessarily mean there’s a nest inside. First, determine if the nest is outdoors near your home’s entrances or inside the home.

2. Determine If You Can Figure out How to Get Rid of the Wasps Safely on Your Own

It’s important to understand the scope of the problem and determine if you can handle it alone before attempting to get rid of the wasps. Professional exterminators don’t want to be called into a situation you’ve already made worse. Do not attempt to take care of wasps if you need a ladder to administer treatment or can’t see the entire nest or colony.

3. Choose the Safest Method to Get Rid of the Wasps

Choosing how to get rid of wasps inside can be tricky. If the nest is small and you can reach it without a ladder, you might be able to remove the nest and live wasps into an airtight container. To do this, quietly approach the nest and cap an empty container over the entire nest. Use a stiff board to scrape the nest into the container and quickly put the lid in place. Then you can safely take the container outdoors.

You may be able to exterminate wasps indoors with a commercial aerosol spray. Try this method at night, when the wasps are at their least aggressive. While wearing long pants, a long sleeve shirt, fully enclosed shoes, and gloves, spray the nest until it’s thoroughly drenched. Take care to avoid standing directly below the nest because wasps will drop when sprayed and may still have the capability to sting.

Pro Tip:

If the nest isn’t in an area that’s visible or bothersome, removal isn’t necessary after the wasps are taken care of. Leaving the nest in place can deter other wasps from building a new nest in the same spot.

How to Get Rid of Wasps in the Yard

When you’re learning how to get rid of wasps in the yard, it’s important to remember that the bulk of the nest is likely underground. If you’re making landscaping changes to the yard at your new home, watching for wasps near the ground could alert you to the presence of a nest before getting stung. Take these steps when learning how to get rid of wasps in the yard.

  1. Locate the nest. Outdoor nests are typically located under eaves, around bushes and trees, under outdoor fixtures, or in the ground.
  2. Wait until night. Wasps are all at home after dark and usually less aggressive.
  3. Choose the safest, most effective method of removal. Visible nests attached to bushes and trees can be drenched with aerosol sprays. Nests in the ground can be effectively neutralized with dust, but this method can be slower since wasps are only killed as they exit the nest.
  4. Stop wasps from returning. Remove food sources from the area. When wasps are gone, remove the nest if possible. If you can’t get rid of the nest, spray regularly to get rid of immature wasps.

Pro Tip:

Wasps imprint food sources so that they can return to them later. Even after the source is gone, wasps may hover around the spot searching for food.

How to Get Rid of Wasps in the Attic

someone spraying a wasp nest in an attic

When deciding how to get rid of wasps in the attic, it’s important to consider whether your attic space is accessible, especially if it’s an insulated attic. If not, it’s a good idea to consult a professional exterminator. If you can access the nest and are confident about wasp removal, follow these steps.

  1. Locate the nest and remove valuable possessions from the surrounding area.
  2. Secure the windows and vents to stop the spray from escaping.
  3. Completely drench the nest with aerosol spray and leave it alone for 24 hours or time indicated by the manufacturer.
  4. Check the nest. If there are still live wasps, spray again to take care of the ones you missed.

How to Get Rid of Wasps Naturally

Most remedies to get rid of wasps include chemicals. Still, many people would rather learn how to get rid of wasps naturally. These natural methods allow you to remove wasps without chemicals:

Dish Soap and Water

While water isn’t effective alone, spraying a nest with soapy water dish soap breaks up the surface tension of water so it effectively kills wasps.

Nest Removal

When deciding how to get rid of wasps, relocating the nest can seem like the scariest option. However, if it’s a small nest, and you move it at night, you likely won’t disturb the colony. Cap a plastic container over the nest, scrape the nest into the container, and then cover it with stiff cardboard or another cover. Carefully place the container with the nest in a low-traffic nesting area.

Bait Traps

Whether you purchase wasp bait traps or make your own, these tools can allow you to get rid of your wasp problem without the use of chemicals. Adding vinegar to the bait can help you avoid enticing and trapping honey bees.

Food-Grade Dusts

Diatomaceous earth, talcum powder, cinnamon, and boric acid can all work to get rid of wasps in a manner similar to chemical dust products.

Try Co-Existing

If the wasps aren’t a problem, you don’t really need to remove them. Wasps in high-traffic areas can be a danger. But if no one is going to provoke the colony, you can simply avoid each other.

Pro Tip:

While many bees can only sting once, wasps retain their stinger after stinging and can attack multiple times. Some natural methods can reduce the risk of confrontation.

How to Get Rid of the Wasp Nest Itself

After treating live wasps, getting rid of the nest is simple in comparison. Most wasp nests are stuck to a wall, ceiling, or plant, so some scraping or force may be necessary for removal. If the nest is hard to reach, and you’re sure the wasps are dead, a shovel or rake can be an effective tool. If you’re not sure about the presence of live wasps, cover the nest with a garbage bag or plastic container before scraping it loose. This can help you avoid stings.

Pro Tip:

Leaving an old nest in place can sometimes be a deterrent to other wasp colonies seeking a place to build.

How to Actively Prevent Wasps from Making Nests on Your Property

While there are situations when you need to learn how to get rid of wasps, proactive prevention can be less dangerous and preserve an important part of the insect food chain. Try using these preventive measures to avoid wasps in the outdoor areas your family frequently uses:

Plant Mint in Flowerbeds or Pots Outdoors

Wasps typically avoid the smell of mint, so this can naturally keep them away.

Avoid Providing Food Sources

Open trash containers, pet food, and even hummingbird feeders can attract wasps.

Set Bait Traps

Bait traps are a great non-confrontational tool for getting rid of wasps. When utilized before nests are built, they can be a preventive tool, as well.

Seal Off Entry Points

Crevices around windows and under the eaves of your home can provide enticing spots for wasps to build nests.

Use Bar Soap

Rubbing a bar of soap over wooden surfaces, like the eaves of your home or wooden outdoor furniture, can deter wasps from building nests in places they typically like.

Put Up a Fake Nest

Wasp colonies don’t like to be neighbors. A fake nest can fool a queen into thinking another colony is nearby and make her move along. Leaving up last year’s nest could provide the same function since wasps don’t reuse nests.

While wasps can deliver a painful sting, the insects serve an important purpose. Instead of consuming pollen like bees, wasps eat insects. They get rid of other pests you might not have realized were on your property. Try preventing wasps from nesting in high-traffic areas but letting them stay in the far corners of your yard if you’re not allergic.

If you love spending time outdoors, it’s impossible to avoid wasps completely. But learning how to get rid of wasps can help you and your family avoid painful stings. Planning ahead each spring can help you take care of wasp nests early and typically avoid an infestation. Always seek professional assistance before attempting a dangerous method of wasp removal. Knowledge is power. Now that you’ve learned how to get rid of wasps, it’s time to get outdoors and enjoy your backyard!

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