Hornets and wasps might have a bad reputation, but they are actually beneficial to the environment because they prey on other insect pests. Unfortunately, they also have a painful sting and, depending on the species, can be quite aggressive when defending their nests. Stings can trigger dangerous and sometimes fatal allergic reactions in about 2 percent of the population. For that reason, you should not use home remedies when dealing with nests. But you can feel confident about using home remedies to help prevent and reduce wasps and hornets around your yard.
About Wasps and Hornets
The terms wasp, hornet and yellow jacket are often used interchangeably to describe a variety of stinging insects, but they are quite different. Paper wasps create umbrella-shaped honeycomb nests under ledges and eaves. They are not as aggressive as yellow jackets. The term hornet is often applied to yellow jackets and other wasps that build aerial nests (Dolichovespula spp.), versus yellow hornets that build subterranean nests, Vespula species. Yellow jackets are the most dangerous variety because they aggressively protect their nests. There is a variety of true hornet (Vespa spp.) in the United States, the European hornet (V. crabro), but it is not as common.
If dealing with a large nest in a high-traffic area, home remedies are not an option. Flooding, boiling water and other techniques will not work and could end up getting you stung. If you do not want to use pesticides, a pest control expect may be able to vacuum out or cut and bag a nest, but this is not an option for homeowners to undertake on their own.
If the nest is not located in a high-traffic area, your best option is to do nothing. Unlike bees, wasps, hornets and yellow jackets die off once the winter turns cold. The nest will then disintegrate or can be knocked down. You can also make yourself less of a target for wasps and hornet. Avoid wearing perfumes, hair sprays and brightly colored clothing because they make you more of attractive to stinging insects.
Sanitation works at repelling yellow jackets because they often seek out sweet, high-carbohydrate or high-protein foods. But keeping clean doesn't work for paper wasps, bald-faced hornets, and some other varieties because they feed almost entirely on insects and pollen. Sanitation involves removing or placing in air-tight containers any food sources like garbage, pet food, fallen fruit and similar items. You should also remove any abandoned nests because they can encourage new ones. Repair and paint wooden porches, fences and other wood items because queens use them as building material for their nests.
Homemade traps will not effectively control hornets, but they can help limit them when you're hosting outdoor events. A trap is made by filling a small bucket or coffee can 3/4 full with water. Add a small amount of cooking oil or dishwashing detergent to the water. Suspend a piece of fish, meat or fruit above the water using a stick or piece of string. Make another type of trap by cutting the top 4 inches off a 2-liter bottle. Invert the top and place about an inch of soapy water in the bottom of the bottle. Place a piece of fruit or meat in the center of the bottle. Set traps at least 20 feet away from gatherings.
- Georgia Center for Urban Agriculture; Yellow Jackets; Gary R, Peiffer
- University of Idaho Extension; Homeowner Guide to Yellowjackets, Bald-Faced Hornets, and Paper Wasps; Edward Bechinski, et al.
- Washington State University: Hornets and Yellowjackets; Levi Strauss
- University of Nebraska-Lincoln: IPM for Stinging Bees and Wasps
- New Mexico Pest Management: Stinging Pests
- University of Kentucky; Controlling Wasps, Hornets and Yellowjackets; Michael F. Potter
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