If you’ve ever heard a loud buzzing noise circling around your head, chances are, you’ve seen or encountered a wasp. While our initial instinct is to swat and shoo them away, thinking the insect is planning to sting us, the first thing you should know is that most wasps are solitary, non-stinging varieties. Here’s another fact about this insect that might surprise you: there are around 30,000 identified species.
Often mistaken for a bee, a wasp is actually quite different. Their coloring can range from yellow to brown, metallic blue and bright red, with the brighter colored wasps generally belonging to the Vespidae family, or stinging wasps. Another distinct feature is the insect’s body. Wasps have a pointed lower abdomen and a narrow waist called a petiole, which separates the abdomen and thorax. Whereas bees live in colonies in the beehive, wasps instead build a nest using wood fibers that are scraped and chewed into a pulp, forming their umbrella-shaped honeycombed, papery home that’s easily recognizable.
If you’ve spotted a few of these structures around your home, you’ll want to keep reading this post. As we mentioned above, most wasps don’t sting, but learning more about what attracts wasps can help protect you and your family from painful stings. We’ll also explore why wasps are building their nests around your home, how to keep them from doing so and natural remedies to keep your property wasp-free.
What Attracts Wasps To Your Property?
One reason wasps travel towards your home is in search of a safe, warm haven. Male wasps die off in the fall after impregnating nearby queens, so at the onset of winter, queen wasps typically look for a protected place to spend the colder months. As such, your home’s insulated walls and hidden cracks, crevices and cavities make for a perfect living environment. Social wasps, or wasps that live in large colonies, are a perfect example. Take the yellow jacket wasp. These wasp colonies tend to be more prevalent in hollows in or near the ground, which means you might find these insects making their nests underneath your home or in your foundation.
In the warmer months of the year, queens begin emerging from hibernation and begin looking for food. That explains why wasps gravitate towards your home around the summer months, when we tend to be spending more time in our yards. If you see wasps flying low to the ground, there’s a good chance the insect is looking for and preying on insects, grubs or larvae in the soil. These types of wasps are called digger wasps and generally can be left alone. The digger wasp also looks for sugar in the form of fallen fruit from trees, spilled food or drinks outdoors or aphid honeydew. The cicada killer wasp, however, searches for cicada’s eggs. Don’t be frightened by the name, as these insects are not aggressive and primarily prey on cicadas.
Both social and solitary wasps eat other insects, which can include aphids, flies, caterpillars and Japanese beetles, as well as garbage left by homeowners and fruit and meat left outside of the home. Homeowners with gardens should also note that wasps are attracted to fragrant flowers, which we’ll discuss later in this post.
Though we’ve established that wasps enjoy both protein-based foods and sweet foods, one interesting fact is that a wasps’ preference for each depends on the time of year. In the warmer months of spring and summer, wasps seek out protein-based foods like scraps of meat. So if your family enjoys a summer barbecue, be sure to remove any leftovers and pieces of meat that might attract a wasp. Alternatively, in the fall and winter months, wasps crave sweeter foods, like sodas, fruits and fruit juices. During this time, wasps are also more aggressive in seeking out the food they want. That means that if you have fruit trees in your yard, you may want to pick up any fallen fruits as soon as possible if you want to avoid wasps and be sure to remove any leftover soda cans or glasses of juice left outdoors.
How To Keep Wasps From Building Nests Around Or In Your Home
Like we mentioned above, food is a key motivator for wasps when it comes to choosing where they might build their nest. To ensure they don’t do so, it’s imperative to remove any unwanted food or drink around your property and to keep your trash cans and trash areas covered and tightly sealed. More specifically, though, since wasps are drawn to sweeter foods, you may want to consider removing nectar and bird food that you may have intended for other animals if your priority is keeping wasps away.
If you are on a wasp control mission, another consideration is your home’s structure. As we mentioned above, queens find cracks and holes in your home during the colder months to ensure a secure and a warm place to hibernate. To avoid attracting additional queen wasps, be sure to repair any broken panels or siding, patch cracks in walls and repair any additional crevices you find on both the interior and exterior of your home. In your lawn, consider filling in any holes—occupied or vacant—with dirt or debris. Doing so will keep a wasp colony from making and building their home in a burrow.
How To Keep Wasps Away From Your Deck
If you have a deck in your backyard, chances are a wasp has—or is thinking of—building their nest there. Similar to cracks and crevices around your home, the space underneath your deck, with all the dark corners it offers, can provide a safe, warm haven that’s hidden from both people and other animals that might prey on these insects.
If you haven’t spotted a wasp’s nest under your deck before, it doesn’t mean they aren’t there. Here are a few useful tips to follow when scoping out your deck for wasps and their nests to avoid accidentally disturbing a nest, which puts you at a higher risk of getting stung:
- Wear heavy clothing and gloves to ensure your skin is fully covered. While, as we said, most wasps don’t sting, it’s always best to take precautions, especially if you are looking in places a larger concentration of these insects might be nesting.
- Never approach a wasp’s nest during the day, as they are most aggressive during this time. Instead, cover your flashlight with red cellophane taped over the light to see the nest at night. The reason for doing so is that wasps can’t see the red light.
If you don’t find any nests, we recommend taking preventative measures to ensure wasps don’t begin to build their home around your deck in the future. Similar tactics to keep wasps away—like the ones already mentioned—can work for your deck as well. Fill in any crevices and cracks in your deck, remove any food scraps around or under it and be sure to keep any outdoor trash cans and bins tightly sealed. Keeping wasps away from your deck will enable you and your family to enjoy outdoor activities all summer long without being worried about wasps.
Natural Wasp Repellents: Vinegar and Other Essentials
If you find yourself with a number of wasps’ nests in and around your home and want to avoid using any chemicals to control them, there are several natural remedies and repellents to consider. First off, prevention—like we mentioned above, removing any inviting food sources or pathways into your home—is sometimes the best way to keep wasps out of your home.
Mixing together common household ingredients can be an inexpensive and effective way to remove wasps. Vinegar, for example, can be used to create a water trap. Once the wasps enters the water, it won’t be able to get out and will drown. The full water trap requires sweetened water, apple cider vinegar and a drop of dish soap. Incidentally, you can also use a similar solution to get rid of fruit flies. Alternatively, white vinegar mixed with equal parts water can be used as a spray to keep the wasps away.
Another creative, natural repellent is a wasp decoy, which can deter wasps from building nests around your yard or inside your home. This is especially true for red paper wasps, which are territorial. Most decoy nests can be purchased at home improvement or garden stories, but if you prefer to build your own wasp decoy, the process is relatively simple. Take old newspapers, crumple them into balls, stuff them into plastic shopping bags and tie them closed. Then place the tied shopping bags in paper lunch-size bags and hang them up in corners or your home and around your yard.
Because wasps are drawn to fragrant flowers, one approach to removing them is to plant flowers that naturally repel wasps in your yard. Plants like spearmint, thyme, citronella, eucalyptus and wormwood are all considered effective natural repellents. Similarly, peppermint oil and essential oil blends, like lemongrass, clove and geranium can also repel worker wasps.
Not one for planting greenery in the backyard? No problem. Instead of adding plants to your garden, simply place a few drops of peppermint essential oil or the essential oil blend on a cotton pad or ball and place these strategically around and inside your home where you’ve seen wasps build their nests. If you’re trying to prevent wasps from entering your home for the first time, common areas like crevices, cracks, under porch roofs and under eaves and ledges are the best places to leave the cotton pads.
What Repels Wasps: The Final Word
We’ve discussed a few natural repellents, such as oils and fragrances, but did you ever consider your clothing as a natural wasp repellent? Like we mentioned above, wasps can’t see the color red (hence the red taped flashlight), so consider wearing that color if you are planning to sit outside. You’re less likely to be bothered by a wasp than your counterparts wearing white or yellow, two colors wasps have been found to be attracted to. Insect repellents like DEET can also work well to keep wasps away.
Another tactic to repel wasps from your property is to make them think there’s already another colony of wasps nearby. As territorial insects, they will attack other wasp colonies that try to invade their territory. And as such, these insects will approach new properties and areas with caution if they notice another nest that isn’t theirs. Luckily, we discussed how to build your own wasp decoy above, so you have another trick up your sleeve if you are trying to keep wasps away.
ABC Can Help With Your Pest Problems
At ABC Home & Commercial Services, we take pride in our pest expertise—and that includes bees and wasps. We know that wasps can take up residence around your home unbeknownst to you, building their nests before you discover them. Our highly-skilled technicians can come to your home to identify if the type of wasps in your home and yard. We can then offer suggestions of how to make your property less hospitable to these stinging insects so you can enjoy your outdoor spaces without being worried about a wasp sting.