I may be a granny but this blog is science based garden information with a lot of gardening experience thrown in. There's a bit of reminiscing, ranting, story telling and wishful thinking thrown in too. Have fun reading and don't be afraid to comment.
Wasps and yellow jackets
and yellow jackets
Complaints about wasps and yellow jackets soar in early
fall. The populations of these critters
is high now and they are intent on preparing for winter and not as tolerant of
humans as they were earlier in the season.
Wasps and hornets are beneficial insects and if at all possible they
should be left alone. After a hard frost
the problem will go away. But in some
cases as when the nest is near a doorway or there are severely allergic people
that may be impacted they must be dealt with.
Bald Faced Hornet - bugguide.net
Wasps and hornets aren’t quite the same family as bees,
but since they look similar and have the same ability to sting, people often
lump them together. Some wasps and
hornets do pollinate plants but others are predators of other insects that harm
plants, or they consume dead plants and animals. As a whole all bees, wasps and hornets should
be considered as beneficial creatures and we should be rooting for the survival
of all of them, not just honeybees.
Wasps come in many colors. Many don’t bother humans and don’t nest near
homes. Mud daubers, yellow jackets, bald
faced hornets and paper wasps are the most common wasps people consider to be
pests and yellow jackets are by far the most aggressive.
Yellow jackets are striped yellow and black insects
that many people mistake for honey bees. (Honey bees have tan hair on their
bodies and flattened hind legs to carry pollen.) There are several species. The Eastern
Yellowjacket (Vespula maculifrons)and
the German yellow jacket (Vespula
germanica) are the most common in the northeast.
Yellow jackets build papery cell homes inside crevices
or even in holes in the ground. When the
home area is vibrated or stepped on they may swarm out in a vicious protective
mob. They are aggressive and don’t need much provocation to sting, especially
in the fall. In the fall populations of
yellow jacket colonies are large and the insects seem to become more aggressive
as numbers build up.
Paper wasps are black with yellow markings. There are twenty-two species of Polistes
family wasps in North America. They can
be hard for the average person to distinguish from yellow jackets. Their nests help separate them. Paper wasps make the papery flat nests
dangling from a stalk consisting of many cells that open downward. These nests are often under the eaves or
overhangs of homes. They are made from chewed wood mixed with salvia.
Paper wasps treat the stalk of the nest with a
secretion they produce to repel ants, which like to eat the wasp larvae. Paper wasps protect a nest territory, which
may be a problem if a nest is above your door, but are not otherwise
aggressive. They are good pollinators
and feed on caterpillars and beetle larvae and should be left alone if
Bald faced hornets (Dolichovespula
maculate) are black with white markings on their face, thorax and
abdomen. They are the builders of those
impressive papery cone shaped nests dangling from trees that teachers and
naturalists like to display in their classrooms. Only the queens survive winter,
usually by hibernating in a crevice or hole in a tree. The nests are not used a
second year and after a good freeze it’s safe to remove the nests either to
dispose of them or to use them for decoration.
Beware – there may be other insects hiding inside after the wasps are
Mud dauber- wikimedia
Mud daubers are black with a narrow thread like waist
attaching the head to the lower body. Some are marked with yellow, but the very
narrow waist distinguishes them from yellow jackets and bees. There are several
species. (Sphecidae or Crabronidae) Their nests look like balls of mud linked
together in a mass or sometimes a single lemon sized mud ball. Some species
also make long tubular mud columns.
There is an opening in the bottom of the mud nest. Mud daubers are not very aggressive and
seldom sting humans. They prey on
spiders so if you don’t like spiders maybe you should leave them alone.
and removing nests
Dealing with wasps and hornets may mean removing a
nest, but they can’t be relocated like honeybees. Often they will need to be killed. You can buy any number of wasp and hornet
sprays to spray nests where they can be reached. These are quite effective if
applied properly and won’t kill many non-targeted insects. They are best used on yellow jacket, mud
dauber and paper wasp nests, the football shaped bald hornets nest is hard to
penetrate with pesticides.
You will need someone willing to get close to the nest
and that person should not be one who is allergic to bee/wasp stings. It’s best to deal with wasps and hornets
after dark, using a red light or a flashlight with a piece of red plastic over
the lens. Cool nights are best. A chilly rainy day can also be a good time to
deal with wasps and hornets. All wasps
and hornets are less active in cool weather and after dark most insects will be
in the nest being treated and more likely to be killed. Wear long sleeves, pants and gloves when
A garden hose can be used to wash mud dauber and paper
wasp nests down. A high pressure spray
is best. This is simple and non-toxic.
Some nests may be re-built. Keep
a close eye on the location and hose down any rebuilding efforts as soon as
The bald hornets large football shaped nest hanging
from a tree may be hard to reach. You
could use a tree trimming tool on a long telescoping pole to trim off the
branch the nest is on. Place a plastic
bag lined garbage can on the ground beneath the nest to catch the nest and
quickly tie up the bag as it falls.
If a ladder will reach the nest a plastic bag can be
placed over the nest at night, the bag tied off and the limb the nest is on
trimmed off the tree. This is one time
you may be able to move the nest, if you are willing to put the nest somewhere
and remove the bag. In the fall however
the nests will be abandoned soon anyway.
Yellow jacket nests should be located by watching where
the workers are coming and going from.
Watch for them in the middle of a warm, sunny day when they are most
active. Mark the opening so you can
return at night and find it. The nest
opening can then be sprayed or dusted with pesticides. Most spray cans have an extension nozzle so
you can get the pesticide far inside the hole. Openings in home walls can be
sealed shut with caulk after applying pesticides. Work silently and slowly when
dealing with yellow jacket nests. There
are also traps and poison baits made to kill yellow jackets. Follow the label directions carefully.
If dead wasps and hornets fall out of a nest sweep them
up so birds, frogs and toads don’t eat them and be harmed by the
pesticide. Dispose of them in a sealed
paper wasp- wikimedia commons
and hornets after food
First recognize that both meat products and sweets
attract wasps, particularly yellow jackets in the fall, which can make eating
outside hazardous. There are traps that
lure and kill yellow jackets that you can buy, locate these far from the house
or where you will be eating. For a one
time event such as a picnic you may be able to lure most yellow jackets away by placing a shallow dish of orange or
grape soda and a few pieces of hot dog at some distance from where humans will
be eating. Put these out an hour or two
before humans begin carrying food and drinks around. Also remove any hummingbird feeders near
where people will be eating or sitting.
Keep food and drinks covered outside and clean up
spills. Trash cans should have lids and
not be close to eating areas. Yellow and
white clothing or bright floral patterns may attract wasps as does sweet
smelling perfumes and aftershaves.
Wearing a commercial insect repellant with DEET may help keep wasps away
Despite many claims science has proven scents like
eucalyptus, cucumber, mint, citronella, dryer sheets, bleach, ammonia and so on
do not repel wasps. There are no plants
you can set on a table or plant to repel wasps.
Mothballs are extremely hazardous to humans and the environment but do
not repel wasps. If you or someone you
know is allergic to bee and wasp stings relying on old wives tales, organic
concoctions and myths to repel or kill wasps is foolish.