Preventing Wasp Infestations

The wasp is a yellow-and-black flying insect that frequently makes its home on the underside of trees and decks or inside dumpsters. During peak nesting time, a wasp nest may grow to contain over 10,000 wasps. Because wasps can sting repeatedly when provoked, many people prefer to eliminate wasp nests or prevent them before they establish a site.

The Nesting Process

Like bees, wasps help to pollinate plants and are therefore beneficial to have in a garden. They also eliminate other pests that may contribute to the destruction of plants. However, wasps stings are painful, and many people are severely allergic. For this reason, gardeners typically remove wasps from their yards, although nests in remote locations can generally be left alone.

A wasp infestation begins when a queen finds a nesting space in the hollow of a tree, a roof or another shady spot. The queen typically settles on a site in the spring and begins producing workers to build the nest. Wasps ingest wood to create a paper-like material for the bulk of the nest, continuing to build until the fall. At this time, the wasps will die out and the nest is abandoned. Wasps will not return to a previously used nest.

Preventing and Dealing With Infestation

Wasps are attracted to shady and protected areas. Ensure that there are no open spaces in nearby trees or hollow areas on the outside of your house. Wasps also tend to gather around opened waste bins, food containers and compost. Keep garbage receptacles closed and clean and do not leave food scraps accessible where wasps may have access to them.

If an infestation does occur, there are a variety of effective wasp control methods. If you decide that the nest is in a bad location and needs to be removed, check your local hardware or gardening equipment store for treatment methods.  

Pesticides and insecticides are common wasp control methods. Pesticides may be applied to the entrance of the nest, killing the wasps inside. Alternately, you may be able to spray the pesticide onto the nest from a safe distance. However, this method puts children and pets at risk of poisoning, as pesticides are harmful to humans and other animals as well as wasps.

A safer and healthier option is to burn the nest. Using a lighted stick or torch, burn the nest, being careful to avoid burning the surrounding nesting site. This treatment may be followed with a pesticide spray or application for greater effectiveness.

Eliminating Serious Infestations

In some cases, you may not be able to locate the site of the wasp nest.  Because wasps are easily provoked, it may also prove dangerous to attempt to eliminate a large nest using the methods listed above.  In this situation, it is best to consult an exterminator to determine how best to deal with the infestation.

Wasps are beneficial garden insects, but many people consider them dangerous or unwelcome guests.  Knowing how to prevent and how to deal with a wasp infestation can save you time, money, and many wasp stings.