The Q&A Archives: Deterring Wasps

Question: Is there any research being done on an effective, organic contol for yellow jackets or white faced wasps? These are the nasty things that nest in the ground, not honeybees.

Answer: I'm glad you make the distinction between honeybees and wasps! Wasps can be very aggressive. Since many types nest in the ground, something as simple as the vibrations caused by mowing nearby will be considered a threat to the nest and can trigger an attack. Even walking near a nest can disturb them enough to atttack. Honeybees tend to sting only if you disturb their hive directly, or if you swat at them or step on them. Also, while wasps can sting repeatedly, honeybees can sting only once, then they die. It makes sense, then, that they wouldn't sting unless absolutely necessary.

In defense of wasps, they're beneficial insects, too. They help pollinate flowers and they are great predators of other destructive garden pests. Wasps kill caterpillars and flies to feed to their young. Admittedly, wasps are no fun to contend with when you're trying to garden or picnic outdoors.

Here's are some ways to deal with wasps: For ground-nesting hornets and wasps, locate the entrance hole to their nest. Then, at night go out to the hole and invert a glass bowl over it. In the daytime, when the wasps try to leave home, they'll be confused and won't be able to exit. Wasps aren't smart enough to dig another exit hole so they'll buzz around the entrance and get stopped by the bowl. In about 10 days the colony will starve to death and you can remove the bowl. Then cover the hole up with soil, and your problem will be solved.

An organic way to keep wasps from spoiling your picnic is to trap them. Put bait in a mason jar and fashion a funnel out of paper to pop into the opening. In spring and early summer, use raw meat or tuna-flavored cat food as bait; later in the summer and fall, use a sweet-smelling substance -- apple juice concentrate and overripe fruit are two good choices. Wasps will be attracted to the bait and will crawl into the jar, but won't be able to fly out. Leave them in the trap long enough and they'll die of thirst, or fill the container with soapy water to drown them. There are also a number of commercial traps on the market.

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