Springtime is a wonderful time to get out of the house and play with your children in your yard. You will occasionally encounter buzzing sounds from bees pollinate flowers around your garden. But watch out as those buzzing insects may not be bees but wasps! Wasps belong to the order Hymenoptera and are composed of around 200,000 species. They are considered as one of the most diverse groups of insects.
Bees may have the reputation of being your garden’s little helpers and wasps tend to be terror insects. However, wasps still serve an ecological role in our backyard. So before you actually exterminate those winged creatures, make sure you identify and get rid of them correctly.
Identify Wasps Correctly
You can avoid having wasps in the house by knowing what they are exactly. Wasps are mainly predatory and act as parasites as larvae. Only adult wasps are known to feed on nectar but they do not play a big role in pollination unlike bees. You can distinguish a wasp from a bee due to their pointed lower abdomen. They also have a petiole – a narrow waist that separates the thorax from the abdomen. Wasps have very few or no thick hair, unlike the fuzzy bees you see flying around your garden. Your image of a wasp probably contains a stinger but not all wasps have stingers. A wasp’s stinger is called an “ovipositor” which is a female sex organ. Therefore, only female wasps contain stingers. Wasps typically have two pairs of wings.
Unlike bees, wasps come in every color you can imagine. They may be yellow or brown making them look like bees. They can also be metallic blue or bright red. The brighter colored species belong to the stinging wasp family. So watch out for that wasp nest around you.
Know the Type of Wasp
Since wasps have thousands of species, they are identified between two primary subgroups: social and solitary. This grouping is based on their nesting habits. Social wasps produce their nest with paper pulp formed from wood. The kind of wood used varies and gives a wasp’s nest a distinctive color. Social wasps are a lesser number in the entire wasp population. Solitary wasps are considered the largest subgroup. Solitary wasps are predominantly parasitic or predatory and do not form colonies. The subgroups also help identify the use of stingers. Social wasps use their stingers as defense but solitary wasps use their stingers to hunt and poison their prey. Solitary wasps contribute to the world’s pest control as they can prey on a majority of pesky insects to feed their larvae.
To further identify the wasp in your area, here are the most common wasp species you will find your surroundings.
a. Paper Wasps: Paper wasps derived their name from having water-resistant nests made of brown or gray papery pulp. These wasps gather fibers from dead wood and plant stems. They mix the fibers with their saliva to form material that can be likened to a papier-mache. Most of paper wasp species are found in the tropics in the western hemisphere. They are also called “umbrella wasps” as most of the species form nests that look like an upside-down umbrella. You can find the wasp nest in sheltered areas, such as the branches of trees or eaves of your house. You must also check for the end of an open pipe or an old clothesline. Paper wasps are favored by gardeners as these wasps prey on known garden pests and pollinate a garden. Paper wasps will sting you if you invade their territory and they can sting you multiple times. Their colony is composed of less than 100 wasps.
b. European Wasps: European wasps are native to Europe, North Africa and some parts of Asia. They are currently well-established in America (north and some parts of south), Australia, and even New Zealand. Due to their origin, they are also known as German wasp or German yellowjackets. They are sometimes mistaken for paper wasps when spotted in their grey paper nests. German wasps bear the common colors of yellow and black. You can even spot black dots in their abdomen. European wasps are usually just half an inch in size. Despite their size, their nest can be huge to the point of actually taking up an entire attic. This means more than 100 wasps can be living in one nest.
c. Killer Wasps: Hornets are known to be killer wasps as their stings can be more painful to humans than the typical wasp sting. For example, the Asian giant hornet is known to cause 30-50 human deaths annually in Japan. Their venom can cause allergic reactions and even fatal multiple organ failure. Hornets are typically larger than other wasp species. They can reach up to 2.2 inches in length which is almost five times your usual paper wasp. Majority of hornets can be found in the Northern Hemisphere. They are often black in white in color. You can spot their nests in protected areas around your neighborhood.
Understand a Wasp’s Life Cycle
Before you start removing those wasp nests, make sure you understand their life cycle. There are four main stages in their life cycle that can be affected by external conditions such as weather.
The first stage would be hibernation. For example, paper wasps create their nests annually as most wasp colonies die due to starvation during winter. Queens would hibernate in sheltered places including crevices in your house. However, few survive as they end up being eaten by spiders living in the same area. After hibernation, the surviving queens would be establishing their colony. She will be building her nest by collecting wood and other necessary materials then move on to laying eggs and collecting insects for food. Colony growth starts when there are enough worker wasps in the nest. This is the point where the queen rests from collecting and hunting. It is now the workers’ task to clean the nest, get wood for nest building, and hunt for insects. The final stage will be procreation where the queen will create new queens and male wasps known as drones. Drones naturally dies within hours after mating. A mature queen stops laying eggs and eventually dies. This leaves their nest into a naturally decay. The worker wasps would now be floating around your garden trying to feed on nectar. Ecologically speaking, you can destroy these wasps as they are approaching the end of their life cycle.
Get Rid of Wasps Naturally
Now that you have identified your wasp problem, you can take action in wasp control. One possible preventive measure is hanging false wasp nest around your house. Note that wasps can be quite territorial. You can even hang a simple brown bag or paper lantern as wasp nests can resemble them. This method is not 100% guaranteed but it is cheap and easy wasp deterrent. Make sure you do this during the wasp’s hibernation period. You can remove the old nests and hang the paper lanterns to stop them from building the nest when they are growing a colony.
If you will be using a wasp spray, make sure to use a spray made of natural ingredients such as peppermint. Peppermint is a natural wasp repellent and will not harm your pets or children. The strong chemicals can indeed kill wasps but it can also poison your pets if they make a mistake of eating the dead wasps. You can also make your own wasp trap by inverting two-liter soda bottles and filling it with two inches of sugar water. Cut the bottoms off the bottles then staple then to trees to attract the wasps.
You may be wondering how to get rid of a wasp nest. Before anything else, make absolutely sure that you are not allergic to wasp stings. It’s easy to consult your doctor about this. You must then use protective clothing. A wasp’s sting can hurt even if you do not have any allergic reaction. Wear long jeans with socks and boots. Grab a hoodie and a pair of gloves. Use protective glasses or even ski goggles to protect your eyes. You can wrap a wool scarf around your neck to protect the area. Consider discarding or washing your clothes after using a pesticide. If you’re not a fan of pesticide, then you can prepare a dish soap solution. Just mix around ? cup of dish soap with a liter of hot water. You can even add peppermint oil as your wasp repellent. Pour the solution into the nest’s entrance. Vacate the area immediately. If the nest is hanging by a tree, you can use a hose to aim at the nest. Never use a ladder for aerial nests as this can cause an accident when the wasps become aggressive.
You can get rid of a wasp nest particularly at night as they tend to be slower and less aggressive. Early morning would work too as long as you do it before they start their activities. Timing is as important as the method to be used in wasp nest removal. If in doubt, call professional wasp control.
Call Professional Wasp Control
Wasp removal is best handles by a wasp catcher. These are professional wasp killers and would be getting rid of wasps without having to worry about the dangers. You can avail of wasp removal services for around US$60 to US$100. They would know what method and insecticide to use. They would usually spray the nest with an insecticide before taking it out. Professional wasp catchers would have the appropriate bee suit to prevent any wasp sting.
There is a great number of professional wasp control around your area, just check their contact numbers over the internet of your dusty phone book. You can also purchase ready-made wasp traps in the nearby market if you have no plans of removing the nest. After all, you can wait until the nest dies if the wasps are not a great threat to your environment.
Getting rid of wasps is a task that should not be taken lightly. It should also not be the immediate reaction when you see a wasp flying around your house. Make sure to access the situation first before you go around panicking. After all, these little creatures help in other pest problems.