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How to Identify, control, and kill, Yellow Jackets, Hornets, and other Wasps

Learning to recognize Yellow Jackets, Hornets, and Paper wasps as well as understanding these possible insect pests, can help when deciding on whether to hire wasp exterminators or handling wasp control and killing wasps yourself.

Learn what a wasp is and how they differ from other insects such as bees and fly's. Wasps have two pairs of wings while flies have a single pair. Most North Am. bees have hairy bodies while all the wasps have smooth bodies except for velvet ants which are really ground living wasps. Unlike bees, wasps are not killed when they sting and can do so repeatedly without the stinger being left in the victim. This is one of the main reason they can be so aggressive and dangerous if trapped under the clothing. Some of the most dangerous wasps are social ones that can build up populations of 100's to 1000's of individuals in a single nest, and that will attack in mass if disturbed. Among the social wasps are: Yellow Jackets, European Hornets, Bald-faced Hornets, and Paper Wasps. The solitary wasps such as Spider wasps and Dirt Daubers are not as aggressive because they are the sole protector of their brood and thus cannot afford to take chances. Wasp extermination and controlling wasps are two different jobs. Wasp extermination can be done with sprays, fumigants, and traps, but true wasp control means understanding where they nest and their habits to prevent their presence in the first place.

Learn to identify Yellow Jackets, their habits, and how to kill them. Yellow Jackets are 1/2 to 3/4 inch long with black/dark brown and yellow/white markings and smoky colored wings. With stout bodies and a hardly noticeable waist, yellow jackets are highly aggressive especially in the late summer or fall when their nests are full of larvae. They tend to nest in the ground, hollow stumps, or hollow trees and can make very large and populous nests. Lawn mowers, tractors, tillers, and other disturbances can cause them to emerge from the nest in mass to attack by repeatedly stinging and chasing what they consider a threat for some time and distance. They are often attracted to sweet substances such as fruits, sugary drinks and foods, along with humming bird feeders. If one of these wasp's nest is found and it is in the ground with a single opening, one way to carry out wasp nest removal is to cover the opening with a clear glass bowl. Do this at night when all the wasps are in the nest. The wasps will keep trying to get out of the nest through the bowl, being confused by the light coming through it and not dig another escape route. They will all eventually die from starvation. If the nest is in a hollow tree or stump the best bet is to call a licensed exterminator as there no good way to cover all of the openings. Soapy water is not a good way to kill wasps quickly and using it will be dangerous. Wasp traps will help to get rid of individual insects but the nest will still be around to breed replacements quickly. Wasp nests removal and wasp extermination is the only way to truly get rid of the problem insect pests.

Learn what hornets and paper wasps look like, what their nests look like, and wasp treatments for them. Hornets and Paper wasps build hanging papery nests often in bushes, trees, and under house overhangs. These nests can grow to be very large with some being found the size of a basket balls and even one that filled a small car. Usually these wasps are killed off by cold weather with only a few fertile females, in hiding, surviving to start new nests each spring, but with mild winters more will survive and build onto existing nests increasing their size. Again as with Yellow Jackets, as the population of a nest increases the wasps will grow more aggressive as they have more to protect. Hornets have very stout bodies with short wide heads, while Paper wasps are thinner with more pronounced and longer waists. Paper wasps tend not to be as aggressive. The European Hornet is very large and can be over an inch in length with bright yellow banding on the abdomen. The Bald-face hornet has black and white markings on its head and face. For wasp nest removal of these wasps wait till after dark when they are all at the nest and with a flashlight, use a long distance wasp spray insecticide to spray the nest thoroughly. Foaming wasp spray works really well for this as it traps the wasps. The next day check the nest from a distance for any activity if there are still wasps around it, repeat the treatment. If there are none, use a long stick to knock the nest down and completely flatten it to kill any larvae. If any part of the nest remains on whatever it was hanging from, even just the short "stem" peduncle remove it or it will attract more wasps. Check for additional nests in the area as they are often in groups. For very large nests, again professional exterminators should be called, to be on the safe side.

Watch for wasp's nests around all property including those belonging to solitary wasps. Solitary wasps such as long-legged Spider wasps and Dirt Daubers are best dealt with using sprays but because they are loners they can be sprayed anytime they are around. Be sure to destroy their nests. Wasps tend to be pretty hardy so be sure to use products labeled as wasp sprays to knock them down quickly and wear protective clothing. If nests are inside sheds or attics, insect fumigants work well, but the pests will be back if the wasp nests removal is not complete and all entrance holes are not blocked. I have even used cans of fumigant to kill ground nesting Yellow Jackets by taping the can upside down inside a five-gallon bucket, so that the can was right side up when the bucket was turned over on top of the nest's opening after dark. I activated the spray can just before setting it down and then ran. The wasps could be heard hitting the bucket sides as they swarmed out mad at the poison, and in the morning the nest was dead. Check regularly in all the areas where wasps tend to nest: stumps, hollow trees, attics, overhangs, eves, sheds and hedges, to find wasp nests before they get very large.

Use common sense when fighting wasps and understand their role in the environment. I do not condone the senseless killing of wasps. They are an important part of the natural ecosystem and serve as essential controls on many insect populations. All wasps are predatory, feeding their larvae on caterpillars, crickets, grasshoppers, spiders, aphids, beetles, and countless other bugs. The adults also act as pollinators when they feed on nectar for quick energy fixes. When they move onto your property, however, and pose a danger to you or your family then it is time to attack them before they attack you. Below under resources are links to other articles about pest control methods. Please rate this article and any others you check out, thank you. All contents copyrighted by Aupoet.


Be sure to have a clear escape route planned to get away from any nest you are working with. Do not try wasp nests removal by hand to save them for show. They may seem dead in the winter but often the hibernating wasps will reemerge when brought in where it is warm.


Be sure to have children, pets, and neighbors inside when treating a nest. If allergic to insect stings don't try this yourself, get professionals. Have medications such as Benadryl, Hydrocortazone, and topical pain killers on hand to treat stings. Seek medical treatment if: swelling become serious, breathing becomes labored, stung repeatedly especially near the head or neck, or a young child is attacked.

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