Everything You Need to Know: How To Have a Wasp-Free Summer

updated May 3, 2019
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(Image credit: Monica Wang)

Despite an unpleasant childhood experience involving a tire swing and a hornets’ nest, I’m not terribly bothered by the wasps’ nests that came with our new house. However, a certain member of my family is not so blasé about our buzzing neighbors, so I’m determined to make our summer wasp-free. Here’s how…

Discourage Wasps from Moving In

Set up wasp’s-nest decoys. They mimic real nests and trick the wasps into nesting elsewhere. Paint or finish the wood deck to create a smooth surface that wasps won’t want to nest on. Keep bushes and plants around the deck trimmed neatly to deter nesting on or near the deck.
How to Keep a Wasp from Nesting on a Wood Deck, SF Gate

Pick Your Battles

Nests located in out-of-the-way sites that are not likely to be disturbed can be ignored since they are going to die out later in the year… The larger nests of yellowjackets and baldfaced hornets that are protected by a paper mache envelope are more challenging and best left to pest control professionals. But, if you are bound and determined to try yourself, then in addition to nest location, your speed and agility should be honestly evaluated. The slow and clumsy should seriously reconsider hiring a pest control company. No attempt should be made to kill a nest that is located high in the upper branches of a tree if you think a ladder will be required to reach the nest… If the nest is located close to the ground in a tree, shrub or on a building, then you may have a fighting chance to survive the experience.
Getting Rid of Wasps’ Nests, MSU

Neutralize Nests Naturally

Nests are easiest to locate on warm summer mornings or evenings by carefully scanning the landscape for insects shooting up out of the ground. After you have located yellow jacket nests, decide whether they will stay or go. To neutralize a nest without using pesticides, cover the entry hole with a large translucent bowl or other cover, held in place with a brick. Be sure to approach yellow jacket nests at night, when the yellow jackets are at rest. Use flags or other markers to mark the locations of nests in acceptable places.
The Benefits of Wasps in the Garden, Mother Earth News

But Use Chemicals When Necessary

The most important element of wasp and bee control is to destroy the nest. Aerosol “wasp and hornet” sprays can be used to knock down bees/wasps around the nest. Small amounts of pesticides (dust and wettable powder formulations work well) applied into the nests of carpenter bees and cicada killers provide good control. Nests of mud daubers also can be treated this way or by simply scraping them off structures.
Bees and Wasps, Illinois Department of Public Health

If You Can’t Beat Them, Trap Them

They will be attracted by the sweet scent and will climb down inside the bottle but won’t have the same luck coming out. We don’t necessarily like promoting killing anything, so we suggest you try to re-locate the wasps and empty the trap daily.
How To Make a Wasp Trap from a Soda Bottle, Apartment Therapy

Travel Back in Time… Or Plan Ahead for Next Year

Wasps are dormant in the winter, so removing their nests from your patio or roof should be an easier task than if you tackled it in, say, June. At dusk, spray the nest with a wasp spray just to be sure, then knock it down.
-Projects that Are Easier to Get Done in the Winter, Apartment Therapy

Don’t Get Rid of All the Wasps

Many insects, such as parasitic wasps… are considered beneficial because they prey on destructive pests. Attract them to your garden by growing beneficial plants among your ornamentals and edibles: tansy, yarrow, goldenrod, alyssum, marigolds, cosmos, coreopsis, Queen Anne’s lace, wild mustard, and thyme, to name a few.
Identifying & Controlling Pests, Apartment Therapy

(Gardener’s and BBC Earth have more information on the types of parasitic wasps you might encounter.)

Keep Calm and Don’t Get Stung

Unless someone accidentally collides quite hard with or swats at a bee or wasp, it is not likely to sting. If you remain calm when a bee or wasp lands on your skin to inspect a smell or to get water if you are sweating heavily, the insect eventually will leave of its own accord. If you don’t want to wait for it to leave, gently and slowly brush it away with a piece of paper. When swimming in pools, watch out for bees or wasps trapped on the surface of the water. If you find bees or wasps in the water, it’s best to remove them to avoid being stung.
Bee & Wasp Stings, UC Davis

Dress For Success

  • Wear light-colored, smooth-finished clothing.
  • Avoid perfumed soaps, shampoos, and deodorants.
    • Don’t wear cologne or perfume.
    • Avoid bananas and banana-scented toiletries.
  • Wear clean clothing and bathe daily. (Sweat may anger bees.)
  • Wear clothing to cover as much of the body as possible.
    Insects and Scorpions, The CDC

Check Your Drinks!

Take care when drinking sweet beverages outside. Wide, open cups may be your best option because you can see if a bee is in them. Inspect cans and straws before drinking from them.
Bee Stings Prevention, Mayo Clinic

If You Are Stung, Clean It, Scrape It, and Chill It

  • Wash the site with soap and water.
  • Remove the stinger using gauze wiped over the area or by scraping a fingernail over the area. Never squeeze the stinger or use tweezers.
  • Apply ice to reduce swelling.
  • Do not scratch the sting as this may increase swelling, itching, and risk of infection.
    Insects and Scorpions, The CDC

Don’t Forget That a Sting Can Lead to More Stings!

If a bee or wasp stings you, or many insects start to fly around, cover your mouth and nose and quickly leave the area. When a bee stings, it releases a chemical that attracts other bees. If you can, get into a building or closed vehicle.
Bee and Wasp Stings, Mayo Clinic