I have never really had an issue with wasps, bees, hornets, or yellow jackets… until recently. I want bees to pollinate my fruits and vegetables. Usually if they get too close to me, I will just blow at them and they will fly away. I don’t usually get stung. No harm, no foul.
Well, wasps, including hornets and yellow jackets, are not bees. They look like bees and are in the same order Hymenoptera and suborder Apocrita, but are not bees.
Not only are they not bees, but the majority of them are not great pollinators with their lack of fur-like hairs and pollen baskets, so they are not all that helpful to our yards or homes (of course, there are exceptions to this, like the fig wasp). Some of them are pretty aggressive and pack a powerful sting too!
I learned this the hard way this past summer.
I didn’t even know that I had wasps. I was standing on my deck by my back door and calling my dog to drop the peach that she had in her mouth. She stole it from my tree when I was picking a ripe one.
Out of nowhere, I felt a sudden burst of repeated burning stings on my left index finger! I reacted by shaking my hand and by the time I looked, whatever had stung me was gone.
I couldn’t figure out what it was, I didn’t see anything. I had just picked a peach off of my tree and thought maybe something was on it, but the peach was in my other hand and I just checked it for bugs when I picked it.
It wasn’t until the next day that I saw the wasp hive a few feet away from where I was standing when I was stung. A couple of wasps were chasing my dog and then headed back to their hive. That’s when I knew that’s what got me.
Let me tell you, the pain was intense! The only thing that kept me on my feet was the fact that my dog still had a peach in her mouth and I was still trying to get her to drop it. Peach pits aren’t safe for dogs. I’m sure this was an entertaining scene for my neighbors to watch.
After a few seconds I couldn’t stand it anymore and went in the door. Koa followed me after dropping the peach on the deck. Works every time.
Oh my goodness, the pain. I’m telling you, I didn’t know a sting could hurt so bad. I have never thought normal bee stings were a big deal, but this hurt.
Take my advice – deter wasps before they get to your yard.
What Do Wasps Get Into?
Wasps can find their way to your home and yard for several reasons. They are attracted to:
- Sugary drinks
- Trash cans
Does your yard have any of these? It’s safe to say that you probably have several of these items in your yard or patio. So, where do the wasps nest once they are attracted to your yard?
They tend to build in places like eaves, soffits, and gutters. Certain kinds of wasps live in the ground and others might nest in your wooden fence.
Can Wasps Be Beneficial?
Although wasps can definitely be a pest to a homeowner, wasps can be beneficial to the agricultural industry. Wasps prey on almost every pest, so they are very beneficial in that way. The agriculture industry readily uses wasps to control pests.
Do They Sting?
There are two categories of wasps – solitary and social. Social wasps tend to sting more than solitary wasps. Social wasps stick together and will protect their territory by stinging what they consider predators, including us.
This is not to say that solitary wasps won’t sting, but you are less likely to be stung by a solitary wasp. Social wasps include hornets, yellow jackets, and paper wasps, while solitary wasps include mud daubers, pollen wasps, and potter wasps.
Not only do wasps sting, but they do not lose their stinger after they sting like bees do. This means that they are able to sting multiple times.
It is especially troublesome if wasps are nesting near a door or an area with frequent human or pet activity. They will see this activity as a threat to their colony, even if you are not actually trying to bother them.
This can cause them to come out to sting, much like they did to me when I was just standing on my deck.
What Are the Effects of a Wasp Sting?
Most people will be able to survive a wasp sting with minor effects such as:
- Localized pain
- Localized swelling
- Burning, redness, or itching at the site of the sting
It is possible to have a more severe reaction to the venom of the wasp. People who are allergic to wasp stings are at the highest risk of severe reactions such as:
- Flushing of skin
- Red bumps on skin
- Difficulty breathing
Others without allergies may still have a severe reaction if they have been stung multiple times and have had a large amount of venom injected into them. This venom toxicity can cause:
It is important to get medical attention immediately if you have symptoms of venom toxicity or an allergic reaction to wasp venom.
It’s also important to know that you can develop an allergy to wasp venom from a previous sting. Even if you didn’t have an allergic reaction last time, that doesn’t mean you won’t next time you’re stung.
How to Treat a Wasp Sting
The first thing you’ll want to do after being stung by a wasp is to wash it thoroughly with soap and water. This will help remove some of the venom and reduce your risk of the sting site getting infected.
Some other at home treatments include:
- Ice the sting site to reduce swelling
- Use a hydrocortisone cream to reduce itching
- Use calamine lotion to reduce itching
- Take an antihistamine to reduce itching
- Take ibuprofen to reduce pain
You do not need to do everything on this list. Use only what you need to treat your symptoms. Be sure to follow dosage instructions and avoid possible interactions.
Immediately after I was stung, when I was standing in my kitchen in pain, I remembered that when I was a kid my grandparents would always make a mixture of baking soda and water to create a paste to put on bee stings, so I tried that.
As it turns out, baking soda helps bee stings because the ph of baking soda neutralizes the acidic ph of bee venom. Wasp venom is actually alkaline.
Vinegar and lemon juice are better choices at neutralizing the venom from wasp stings. I didn’t know this at the time of my sting, but it’s good information for you to remember in case you ever get stung by either a wasp or a bee.
If your pet or child has been stung by a wasp, please check with your veterinarian or pediatrician for advice.
During Which Seasons Are They Most Active?
Wasps are active during the spring and summer. By summer the number of wasps is at its highest, so that’s around the time that you are more likely to see them being active.
Wasps tend to be more active in the heat, so mid to late summer during the daylight hours is when you are likely to see them being active.
How to Deter Wasps
Before you get too worried about having wasps in your yard, know that there are things that you can do to deter them before they move in.
Some of the ways that you can deter wasps are:
- Don’t leave food or sugary drinks outside
- Pick up crumbs
- Keep bird feeders, especially hummingbird feeders, at a distance from the house
- Don’t leave pet food outside
- Put out one or two decoy nests in the spring to trick the wasps into thinking there are already wasps claiming that territory
- Seal up any holes or gaps around your house so they can’t get inside
- Plant minty scented plants in your garden or in pots around the house
What to Do When You Already Have Wasps Around
If you find yourself in a situation where you have wasps nesting in your yard or house, you have some options about how to get rid of them.
One of the most popular options is to make a DIY wasp trap. This involves using a 2 liter soda bottle and some bait to attract wasps. You can find details on how to make your own wasp trap in this article on BobVila.com.
If you find a wasp inside your house, you can simply vacuum it up once it lands on a surface.
When you have a number of wasps in your yard, you can keep an eye on the wasps from a distance, carefully watching where they go. You might be able to see where they are nesting.
In this case, if you’d like to go for a more aggressive approach, you can use some commercial wasp killing spray. You will want to spray early morning, around sunrise. The wasps will be resting in the nest and you can get all of them at one time.
Be sure to wear protective clothing and have a clear exit path. When you spray the nest, you’ll want to aim the spray at the opening where the wasps would attempt to flee out from. Keep spraying for several seconds, then spray the rest of the nest.
When you are done spraying the nest, leave the area and go inside. If you see any further activity at the nest, repeat spraying the next morning when they are inactive.
A more friendly wasp killing solution is soapy water. This may be the best option for wasps that are nesting in a hole in your yard. Add dish soap to a large bucket of water and at night or early morning, pour the entire bucket down the hole and set the bucket over the top of the hole to stop the wasps from flying out.
Do not remove the bucket until you are confident that the wasps are dead. You will want to wear protective clothing if you attempt this method as well.
Yet another option is to call a professional pest control service. Let them take care of it so you don’t have to do the dirty work yourself.
In my case I called a professional to come out and spray the wasps. I already had their service for the summer because of an infestation of another type of bug on my property, so they came out under warranty to take care of the wasps for me.
Having a professional spray is rather easy to do. I emailed them a picture and description of where the wasp hive was and they went to my house while I was at work. They did their thing and left an invoice/description of services on the door.
You will want to keep in mind that it could take a couple of days for the spray to actually get all of the wasps. The reason for this is because they spray the hive and surrounding area during the day, when not all of the wasps are actually in the hive. As they come back at night, they get into the spray residue and they die.
Once you have gotten rid of your live wasps, the next step is to remove the hive so new wasps don’t come in and try to call it home.
I would do this very carefully for two reasons:
- The hive was recently sprayed with poison
- Just in case one of them hasn’t died yet
Whether you already have a wasp problem or you are just trying to prevent them from ruining your time in the yard, you should be able to effectively keep wasps away with the tips I talked about above. Don’t let these pesky insects ruin your summer.
Ben has a bachelor’s degree in construction engineering. When not constructing or remodeling X-Ray Rooms, Cardiovascular Labs, and Pharmacies, you can find him at home with wife and two daughters. Outside of family, He loves grilling and barbequing on his Big Green Egg and Blackstone Griddle, as well as working on projects around the house.
If you want more backyard tips including recipes, how-tos and more, make sure you subscribe to my youtube channel