We know every bug plays an important part in the eco-system, but when a stinging insect joins your garden party uninvited, it can spoil the mood. Some people are very allergic to their stings, so while we preach harmony with our flying friends, sometimes you just need to know how to get rid of wasps and hornets safely.
Wasps start to build their nests in spring, so that is the best time to protect your home and prevent a problem. By summer, they could have built up a nest that you'll need to call in the professionals to deal with.
Consult our how to get rid of pests at home guide if you're not sure wasps are the critter you need to buzz off.
As is the case when dealing with most uninvited house guests, a wasp, yellow jacket or hornet infestation can be pretty unpleasant. Nobody wants to get stung.
Top 3 wasp deterrents
1. Peppermint oil or candles: see a selection (opens in new tab)
2. Growing mint or thyme (opens in new tab) nearby
3. Non-toxic wasp traps: hang these outdoors (opens in new tab)
Unlike bees, wasps and their more dangerous relatives, yellow jackets and hornets, don't die once they've stung you and can sting many times. It means you need to be extremely careful when trying to get rid of them. One of the biggest no-nos is to swat at them or worse, hose them because they will come back fighting.
Martha Stewart (opens in new tab) explains more, 'Of the three kinds of wasps – Polistes (paper wasps), yellow jackets, and hornets – the latter two are the most dangerous. You probably don't want any of them in your home, though!'
'Seek immediate medical attention for anyone who is stung and allergic to wasp or bee stings or is not allergic but stung around or within the mouth, nose, or throat, as swelling could close airways.'
If there's one thing guaranteed to ruin every garden sunbathing session/BBQ/afternoon siesta, it's pesky wasps. Luckily, there are a few things that can be done to ensure your wasp enemies stay away.
What's the difference between a wasp, yellow jacket and hornet?
Want to know more about how to get rid of wasps?
Firstly, we want to lay down the difference between wasps and their more dangerous relatives to help you in your quest.
Here's a little more on each of them:
- Wasps: Common wasps generally have an anchor shaped black marking on the front of their face and they make football-sized nests in the ground or in roofs and trees.
- Hornets: Twice the size of wasps, hornets are a lot more aggressive. Measuring approximately 1.5 inches, they are easily identifiable by their brown and yellow striped bodies. Their stings are extremely painful due to the chemicals found in their venom.
- Yellow jackets: Measuring a small half an inch long and black and bright yellow, yellow jackets make their nests below ground. They can be invasive and extremely destructive in nature.
How to get rid of wasps, hornets and yellow jackets
When the populations of these flying insects is high, your first line of defence is using suitable deterrents and preventative measures. They're key motivation is food, so keep it covered and put a coaster or a sillicone beverage cover (opens in new tab) over your drink while dining outside.
If the wasps have already invaded, it is time to call in some repellents. Read on to see various methods to deter wasps that have already arrived, and to stop them from coming to visit in the first place.
1. Repel wasps naturally
If you don't want to use nasty chemical bug sprays, then there are a couple of natural wasp deterrents.
Firstly, peppermint oil (opens in new tab) (which you can get on Amazon) has been proven to keep wasps away as they hate the smell. Planting mint in your garden can have the same results so line your al fresco dining space with the stuff and start a herb garden in easy reach.
You could also try dabbing eucalyptus around the wasps' entry points or on the table you're eating at if dining al fresco.
Research from the National Library of Medicine (opens in new tab) found that the combination of Clove, Geranium and Lemongrass oils blended effectively repels wasps. Create a simple spray with water and the blend and spritz where you've noticed activity.
2. Create a homemade wasp trap
Create a simple solution of sugar and water and pop it in bottles around your garden, as far away from the house as possible.
Wasps love sweet treats and will climb inside but will be unable to get back out.
Or if that's not doing the job, try the below homemade trap which will appeal to their carnivorous nature:
- Cut a soda bottle in half and turn the top part (without the lid) inside the bottom to create a funnel.
- Add a chunk of deli meat or burger meat into a soda bottle with a sweet liquid like soda or sugar water.
- Keep bees out of the trap by adding a dash of vinegar to the mix.
3. Protect your home
Keeping your windows and doors shut will stop wasps entering the house. If it's too hot and you don't have an air conditioning unit, consider investing in a fly screen (opens in new tab) for your doors and windows.
It'll not only prevent wasps from making an entrance, but will rid your home of other flying insects too.
Wasps also like making a home in guttering and crevices, so seal any cracks around windows and doors and install a bug mesh on your rainwater goods.
4. Spot nests early
In early spring, wasps nests are only likely to be the size of a golf ball. Follow the worker wasps to see whether there's a nest anywhere on your home's exterior walls or garden fences.
If you find a nest, it's always best to call in the professionals. If you've plenty of protective clothing, you could try pouring soapy water over the nest to drown the wasps or spaying it with a pesticide but this will aggravate them.
Martha Stewart has this top tip, '... wait until October when the queen insect has left and the workers have died. At that time, if nests are aboveground and hang from trees or houses, you can dislodge them with the spray from a hose. If the nests are in the ground or inside a wall, you can dig them up or out.'
5. Keep trash cans closed
Open trash cans will attract greedy wasps looking for a sweet meal, and they're not the only pests open trash bins attract.
Keep trash away from the house if you can and make sure the lids are always on properly.
If you're in the market for new trash bins with lids, take a look at our best kitchen trash cans buying guide.
6. Remove rotting wood and fruit
Wasps love a fallen apple or plum. Move these to another area of your outdoor space, well away from where you are relaxing, or put in the compost bin. The same is true of other rotting food. Get it out of the way to avoid attracting hornets and wasps.
Also, note that these creatures build their nests by making a kind of paper from wood. Untreated and decaying wood is easy game for them, so keep your decks and furniture well protected with the best deck stain or paint. You can also clean your patio furniture with a mix including pepperming oil to help deter them from nibbling it.
7. Last resort: pick up a wasp killer
Natural stuff not worked? Perhaps it's time to bring in the big guns. There are loads of sprays available to kill wasps and flies, and foams design to be sprayed directly into nests. We don't like to resort to this, but if the problem is overwhelming you before you can get professional help, it may be necessary.
Warning: Handle these with care and always check ingredients to check for any allergies.
How to get rid of a wasp, hornet or yellow jacket nests
First off, if you're dealing with a large nest or if you see a yellow jacket nest underground, we recommend calling in the pest control pros to get rid of it safely as you risk nasty consequences.
Martha Stewart agrees with this sentiment, 'Since wasps and hornets aggressively defend their nests, the safest method of destroying nests is to call a professional exterminator.'
How to treat a sting
1. If the person is allergic or stung near the mouth, neck or throat, seek medical help immediately.
2. Wash the affected area with soap and water.
3. Apply a cold flannel or ice pack to reduce swelling and soothe the sting.
4. Elevate the part that has been stung if possible to prevent inflamation.
5. Avoid scratching.
However, if you've identified a small nest above ground and want to try and destroy it yourself, you will need a strong insecticide specifically designed to kill wasps. The product we recommend is called Wasp Destroyer Foam (opens in new tab) and is manufactured by Rentokil, Nippon, and other pest control brands. Coat the entire nest with the foam and leave for at least 24 hours.
The foam will act to kill any wasps returning to the nest as well. Never apply while standing underneath the nest, and apply in late evening, when the wasps are inside the nest.
Warning: Always wear protective clothing, especially on your face and hands.