What is the best way to get rid of wasps?
Larimer County CSU Extension Master Gardener
I have a small yellowjacket nest under my second story eaves. It’s nothing like the size of the one I found behind the garage last fall, but the yellowjackets were so bad last summer, I want to make sure to get rid of them. Do you have any recommendations for ridding the yard of these pests?
First, that isn’t a yellowjacket nest. Yellowjackets nest in holes in the ground, or occasionally in small voids in a building. You are probably looking at a European paper wasp nest. European paper wasps are often confused with the western yellowjacket. Although they are both social wasps and live in colonies, the yellowjacket is a scavenger, and the paper wasp is a predator. Let’s talk more about the yellowjacket because they are responsible for at least 90 percent of the “bee stings” in the state.
To aggressively fight back against yellowjackets you need to start by hanging traps in March when the over wintering females are starting to become active. For every queen you catch early in the spring, you are saving yourself from the hassle of up to 5,000 working yellowjackets later in the summer. During summer, keep the traps up, and also start looking for nests where you see the most activity. Be observant of their flight, and be careful as you look because yellowjackets are very defensive. The nests are best controlled in the evening with pesticides, or place a glass jar over the entrance. Further, they will return to food and water sources, so keep the pet food put away, and garbage cans and composts cleaned up. Also, don’t kill yellowjackets when they land on your picnic table because they send out a powerful pheromone that can incite other yellowjackets in the area to attack.
Back to your paper wasp nest: these wasps are mostly beneficial. They only sting when disturbed. Paper wasps have slender bodies compared to the yellowjacket, and their legs hang down when they fly. Sometimes they build nests in bad places like playground equipment or outdoor grills. In these cases, the colony should be disposed of using wasp and hornet products, properly applied according to the label. Keep these areas sealed and you shouldn’t have a problem. On the second floor eaves you may want to consider keeping the nest. The European paper wasp has become an important control for many insects in urban settings. You can find out more about these insects and many more at the CSU Extension website at http://www.Ext.ColoState.edu and read Fact Sheet #5.525, “Nuisance Wasps and Bees.”
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