Regardless of how you feel about wasps — whether you are fascinated by them or scream in terror at the sight of stingers (or maybe both) — they serve a purpose in ecology.
They are predators of other insects, acting as natural pest control to all the annoying bugs the warm weather brings. Wasps are also pollinators and, although not terribly efficient overall, they are responsible for quite a bit of fig pollination in the tropics, according to the U.S. Forest Service.
The good news is usually all you have to do to avoid wasps is leave them alone because they won’t attack unless they feel threatened.
“If one lands on you to check out a particular scent or color, don't panic,” How Stuff Works says. “If you can avoid swatting it or making any swift movements, the wasp will quickly fly off and find something better to occupy its time.”
Of course, if you have a wasp nest attached to your porch, wall or even the ground outside your home, it may not be easy to leave the insects alone. Plus, if you are stung, it hurts, and wasps can sting more than once. While the consequences are usually not severe, the pain and swelling is annoying, and some people may have allergic reactions, the most severe being anaphylaxis.
“Anaphylaxis occurs when your body goes into shock in response to the wasp venom,” Healthline says. “Most people who go into shock after a wasp sting do so very quickly. It’s important to seek immediate emergency care to treat anaphylaxis.”
While you may welcome bees, which affect much of the world’s food supply, to your garden, you may feel less inclined to do the same for wasps.
To help you determine whether you are looking at a bee or wasp, first realize the wasp family has 30,000 species in it, and they include hornets, yellowjackets and paper wasps. Even with so many species, there are still differences that can help.
“Wasps are distinguishable from bees by their pointed lower abdomens and the narrow ‘waist,’ called a petiole, that separates the abdomen from the thorax,” National Geographic says. “They come in every color imaginable, from the familiar yellow to brown, metallic blue and bright red. Generally, the brighter colored species are in the Vespidae, or stinging wasp, family.”
In addition to having thin waists and vivid colors, wasps are also longer and smoother than bees, which are covered in hair. As for their homes, bees build with a waxy substance, while wasps build paper or mud nests.
If you’re still not sure what type of insect you’re dealing with on your property, ask a professional for help identifying them. Doing so will help you decide if you want them gone or just need advice on working around them.
Deal with wasps
Ignoring wasps may not an option for you, as “nests that are near human activity can pose a problem,” according to Paratex Pest Control. If that is the case for you, there are many ways you can get rid of wasps:
Turn off outside lights at night, so you don’t attract insects.
Use essential oils as a repellant.
Keep garbage bins closed, and don’t leave food or drinks outside.
Remove or relocate nests.
Hang a decoy nest to deter territorial wasps from building nearby.
If a nest has been abandoned, knock it down or fill it with dirt.
Hire a pest control company.
If one of these methods doesn’t work for you, ask a pro for advice about your specific wasp problem.