I was on my patio when I noticed several large wasp nests on the center beam and quite a few wasps flying around. I wasn’t very concerned about them until one landed on my daughter and proceeded to crawl around her hair. Then, not too long later, the kids reported there were two more in the playhouse. Nobody had been stung, but I figured it was time to handle this once and for all. Time to kill wasps.
We had a spray bottle of wasp killer from the year before when we had people working on the roof. I took it out to the playhouse at sunset and sprayed the two wasp nests in the playhouse and boy, do I feel like a terrible person now!
Generally, I do not like killing things. Giant wolf spiders in my house get relocated outside whenever possible. I can butcher my own rabbits and chickens, but I’d really rather not. The snake the cat brought in? Yeah, it went back outside as soon as we could catch it.
It just seemed wrong to spray a neurotoxin all over my kids’ playhouse and organically grown yard. Plus, now there are dead wasps laying all over the grass floor of the playhouse, so it’s not even like they can go in there now and play anyway. (Not to mention it’s hellishly hot…)
So I came back inside and started gathering some information. Turns out you DON’T have to kill wasps! And they can even be considered beneficial! Plus, there are non-toxic ways to discourage them from building nests. Wohoo!
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You don’t have to kill wasps! Here’s what to do about wasps nests.
First off, there are a couple different kinds of wasps. There are hornets and yellow jackets, which many people call wasps. Yellow jackets are aggressive and make nests in the ground. We will not be discussing those. What I think of when I say wasps is what is commonly known and paper wasps. These make nests under eaves and in doorways and places like that.
Paper wasps are actually considered beneficial insects. They feed caterpillars and beetles to their larvae. That means there are fewer bugs snacking on YOUR lunch. And fewer caterpillars for my son to accidentally ride over on his scooter. Poor caterpillars.
When I learned that, I had a light bulb moment, because the last two years we have had a crazy amount of caterpillars. Paper wasps are a natural predator of those, which means that their population will decrease, which means the wasp population should decrease in the future as well. Maybe next year the caterpillars AND wasps will balance out.
There are natural predators of wasps, if you are hoping to decrease your population that way. Insects that eat them included praying mantis, robber flies, dragonflies, centipedes, hover flies, beetles and moths. Frogs, lizards, toads, salamanders, and turtles will eat wasps if they happen to come across each other. Even birds will eat them! Starlings, blackbirds and magpies will even hunt down wasps. Many other birds will eat them if they cross paths.
What if you’re allergic to wasps?
Now, what if you don’t mind having paper wasps around, but you’re allergic to them? First off, maybe do some allergy testing to find out if you are allergic to wasps, or just bees. They are different species and some people are allergic to one and not the other. Second, if you ARE allergic to bees or wasps, it’s a good idea to carry an epipen just in case. If you want the benefits of wasps in your garden, you can always destroy the nests that are nearby where you frequent, but leave those that won’t be disturbed intact. Most paper wasps only sting when the nest is disturbed.
If you get out early enough in the spring, you can knock down nests without even needing spray. Cold weather during winter kills off all the wasps except the queen, and they won’t return to old nests the next spring. The queen makes a brand new nest each year. If you get out in the early spring and knock down the nests before the first eggs hatch, she will relocate.
If you simply must remove an already established nest, spray it at night when most of the wasps are home, and they are less active. If they are dead the next day, put the nest in a plastic bag and throw it away.
Personally, I found that spraying crazy foam at tiny beneficial bugs was highly disturbing. I don’t want to do it again. So next spring you’ll find me on my patio with a long stick knocking down nests and hoping they relocate to the garden.
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