Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Western Mountains and High Plains
September, 2006
Regional Report

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These paper wasps are preparing for winter, sealing the chambers for next year's hatch.

The Nuisance Insects of Autumn

As the days grow shorter and temperatures cool down, there are a group of insects that begin their ritual of scavenging around the outdoor patio. Just the other day as I sat down outside to enjoy the day with a picnic lunch, a group of yellow jackets joined in to ruin the ambience. I know that these insects are beneficial as predators in the garden, but give me a break.

Wasps, hornets, and bees tend to be more aggressive in the late summer and early fall. They fly about scavenging for food -- other insects, caterpillars, honeydew produced by aphids and soft scales, and, yes, our picnic lunch. If they are nesting away from your home and are visiting only at picnic time, maybe you can tolerate them. (Remember that they are a part of the balance of Nature.) But when their presence gets to be too much, and their aggression becomes a matter of concern among guests, it's time to take action. Rather than enclosing the patio to exclude them for lunch, other control measures are in order.

One old-fashioned method of trapping these nuisance pests is using narrow-mouthed jars. You can purchase decorative, colored jars just for this purpose. The idea is to fill the jar with a mixture of sugar and water (regular soda pop works well, too), and hang it in a nearby tree or set it on the patio. Once the wasps are lured inside to feed on the sweet nectar, they can't escape.

Commercial hornet and wasp traps -- available at local garden stores -- work the same way. They are baited with a pheromone that attracts wasps or hornets, and the pests become trapped in the plastic tubes and can't escape. You hang them from the house eaves or from trees.

Nest Be Gone
If you are so inclined, the wasp or yellow jacket nest can be destroyed to eliminate invasions close to your home. Once the nest is located, take the following precautions:
1. Use an aerosol hornet and wasp product that has a jet spray so you can apply it from a distance.
2. Apply the spray after dusk when these insects are more docile and less likely to swarm out of their nests.
3. Spray the entrance thoroughly. In most instances, a single application will destroy most of the colony, although any eggs or ready-to-emerge wasps will not be affected.

This is the time of year to enjoy the warm days and cool evenings, and hopefully wasps and hornets will not put a damper on your outdoor activities.

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