How to get rid of wasps and yellow jackets – with natural home remedies and more

Here's how to get rid of wasps for good, including the best ways to get rid of a wasp nest – plus tips for ensuring they don't come back

how to get rid of wasps
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Learn how to get rid of wasps and you'll be able to avoid the most annoying of garden visitors. Wasps start to build their nests in spring, so if you've noticed lots in your garden then now is the time to get rid of them. 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, especially because of the risk of them stinging you.

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. Numbers of these annoying insects start to rise in the spring and peak in summer, which explains why we've started to notice so many of them in our gardens.

Luckily, there are a few things that can be done to ensure your wasp enemies stay away.

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(Image credit: Anne Nygard on Unsplash)

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

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1. Repel wasps naturally

If you don't want to use nasty chemicals, then there are a couple of natural wasp deterrents. 

Firstly, peppermint oil has been proven to keep wasps away as they hate the smell. Planting mint in your garden can have the same results.

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.

  • Read more about planting herbs in your garden in our herb garden guide. 

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.

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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 flying insects too.

Easy-On and Easy-Off Insect Screen, Amazon (opens in new tab)

Protect your home from pesky bugs with this easy to apply insect screen. It can be opened and closed any time and is washable at 30ºC.

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4. Spot nests early 

At this time of year, 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.

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.'

How to treat a wasp sting

1. If there's any sign of allergy, such as swelling of the face or difficulty breathing, seek immediate medical treatment.

2. Wash the sting with soap and water

3. Apply an ice pack or cold compress for 10 minutes

4. If possible, elevate the area

5. Avoid itching or scratching

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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 bins buying guide.

6. Pick up a wasp killer

Natural stuff not worked? Perhaps it's time to bring in the big guns. There are loads of chemical sprays available to kill wasps and flies, and foams design to be sprayed directly into nests. 

Warning: Handle these with care and always check ingredients to check for any allergies. 

Karlsten Wasp & Nest Killer Aerosol, Amazon (opens in new tab)

This fast-acting spray kills wasps, hornets and can be used both indoors and outdoors. A 10-second burst will treat one square metre and can be sprayed onto nests. 

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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.'

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.

Laura is Brand Development Director for Real Homes, focusing on digital content. She has written about homes and interiors for the last 12 years and was Deputy Editor and Editor of Real Homes before taking on her current position. She's currently renovating a 1960s house in Worcestershire, doing as much as possible on a DIY basis.