Discover everything you need to know about wasps in our guide below.


What Are Wasps?

Wasps (scientific name Hymenoptera) are considered beneficial insects that occasionally become pests. When wasps build nests in poor locations or become attracted to inhabited buildings or human food, they can threaten the safety, comfort, and interests of people.

While about 30,000 identified species of wasps exist, only a handful tend to become pests. 

The Behavior, Diet, and Habits of Wasps

There are many different species of wasps inside the Hymenoptera family, and they all have different habits and behaviors. While some are social wasps living in colonies, others are non-social and prefer to forage alone. 

Social wasps, like those in the family Vespidae, live in colonies with complex social structures, similar to ants. In every colony, there’s a queen that produces the workers and the brood. 

Solitary wasps, like mud daubers and digger wasps, don’t belong to a colony group. Instead, female solitary wasps build a nest cell for each egg they lay and fill the cell with a food source for the larva to eat – such as insect or spider prey. 

Depending on the species, wasps build nests either in the ground or in elevated places like trees or the eaves of buildings. Elevated nests are usually made of a paper-like material known as carton, which female wasps produce by mixing their saliva with wood fibers. 

While people often confuse wasps and bees, the two species differ in that wasps feed their young on animal protein, including spiders, meat particles, and insects, while bees survive on pollen. Bees also have hairy, round bodies, while wasps are smooth, streamlined, and hairless. 

yellow jacket
wasps in nest

What Damage Do Wasps Cause?

The most significant danger associated with wasp infestations is wasp stings. Wasps can deliver a painful sting complete with the injection of potent venom, but they’re not inherently aggressive insects.

Instead, they tend to sting as a defense reaction, usually when the colony is threatened, when a person is near their nest area, or when individual wasps are threatened. 

When wasps do sting, they can cause intense pain. In some cases, their venom can cause severe allergic reactions, including anaphylactic shock. 

Wasps can also bother people when they build nests near homes, picnic tables, parks, or other inhabited areas. Since they’re drawn to food smells from barbeques, picnics, and garden produce, they can swarm areas humans want to spend time in.

How to Get Rid of Wasps

Good wasp control involves tactics like insecticides, sanitation, and habitat modification and should be tailored to wasp behavior and the specific habits of social versus non-social species. 

Social wasps are active outside their nests during the daylight. Nearly the entire colony returns to the nest in the evening, where they stay throughout the night. Because of this, the most effective time to treat the nest with an aerosol spray containing permethrin or another pyrethroid insecticide is at night. 

Ground nests, on the other hand, should be treated with specialized residual insecticides or direct applications of carbaryl or pyrethroid dust. Once the nest has been treated, it should be destroyed. Aerial nests, specifically, should be removed and contained in a heavy-duty garbage bag. 

To keep wasps from returning, it’s essential to practice good sanitation and remove all food sources that may attract the wasps. We recommend cleaning grills and barbeques, cleaning up spills promptly, removing ripe fruit and vegetables from your garden, and storing pet food in airtight, wasp-proof containers. 

If needed, hire a pest management professional or use pesticides approved for killing wasps. 

For a complete guide on how to get rid of wasps, click here.

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If you spray the nest at night, you should kill all the wasps within it.

There’s always a chance, though, that there were some workers stranded away from the nest overnight, and it’s possible that they could return and rebuild the nest.

Because of this, we recommend treating the nest with a residual insecticide, which will kill any survivors that return. Remove and dispose of the nest within 24 hours of treatment.

No – using a power washer, hose, stick, or any other tool to destroy a non-treated wasp nest will only break the nest casing. This will cause the wasps to swarm and increase your chances of getting stung. Once you’ve treated the nest with an insecticide and waited 24 hours for all wasps within it to die, you can knock the nest down and dispose of it.

Insecticides containing pyrethroids and pyrethrins will kill wasps instantly. These insecticides are available in spray or aerosol formulations with long ranges, which makes it possible to treat aerial and ground nests without getting stung.

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