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About Wasps! That time of the year…..


It’s that time of year again, where calm sunny weather in September allows wasp colonies to reach their peak size and then do what they are destined to do…….release thousands of virgin queens and males across the nation to ensure the species’ survival next year.

Ben Aldiss, spent three years researching why wasps sting for his PHD in the 1970s.  The rather simple method he used to antagonise said wasps was to stick balls of cotton wool on the end of bamboo canes, and dangle them in front of wasp nests until they got pissed off and attacked them.

He isolated the source of the chemical in the wasps’ bodies that was responsible for provoking the colony to defend itself.  He analysed the venom in those sacs and found an unpronounceable chemical, which was the perfect size and volatility to evaporate at the nest entrance and act as an alarm pheromone……which rouses the other wasps to attack and zero in on a target with pinpoint precision.

BUT…..that is only the first part of the attack.

After many fun hours of annoying wasps in the colony by waving different colours of cotton wool at different speeds and different distances from the nest entrance, he was able to conclude that the most frenzied, fiercest attacks occurred within five metres of the colony, against black or dark-coloured cotton wool that was moving rapidly.  Conversely, white cotton wool, held motionless, hardly got a reaction from the wasps even when it was doused with the alarm pheromone.

Wasps fly from the nests in search of two things: meat for their larvae to eat, and sugar for themselves.  They will fly half a kilometre or more from the nest in search of these things, and at those distances where there is no danger to the colony, they fend only for themselves and will sting only in self-defence.

Aldiss seemed to think that wasps wouldn’t be a particularly acute problem this September.  He says that wet summers don’t make wasps thrive.

Pest controllers today said they had seen an increase in the number of wasp nests being reported at homes and businesses across the country.

Insect invasion – Jim Eaton, from Pestforce, with a wasps’ nest that contained about 10,000 to 12,000 waspsInsect invasion – Jim Eaton, from Pestforce, with a wasps’ nest that contained about 10,000 to 12,000 wasps

Christan Hems, of Pestforce, said: “This year the wasps seem to be very aggressive.

“Last year was a terrible year for wasps and there was a real drop in their numbers, probably because there was so much rain.

“This year though, the hot summer has caused their numbers to rise and they seem to be making up for it.

“I have also never seen their nests grow so fast. We’ve definitely had a lot of calls coming in about wasps of late.”


Beekeeper Tony Gray his honey bees have been hit hard by the increase in wasps


Tony Gray, from the Shropshire Beekeepers Association, said: “There is no doubt about it,

there has been a huge increase in the number of wasps this year.

Tony Gray, from the Shropshire Beekeepers Association, said: “There is no doubt about it, there has been a huge increase in the number of wasps this year. And this is affecting beekeepers in a bad way. The wasps are killing the hives by entering them, eating the grubs and stealing the honey. This kills the bees.”

But wasp fan John Hughes, who is development manager at Shropshire Wildlife Trust, said: “Wasps are so important to wildlife and we should celebrate them rather than berate them.

“They are nature’s pesticide eating all sorts of aphids and caterpillars.

The painful truth – how to avoid being stung by an angry wasp:

  •  Don’t panic: The calmer you are the less anxious the wasp will be. Avoid the temptation to flap, run around or scream. It is sure to get the wasp angry and increase the chance of an airbound assault.
  • Pick your enemies: Not all wasp-like creatures are going to hurt you. There is one giant wasp species – the Woodwasp, sometimes known as the Horntail Wasp, that despite its truly terrifying size, doesn’t sting and is completely harmless. Likewise, bees tend to be less aggressive.

The Woodwasp

The Woodwasp

  • Watch what you eat: Although wasps do not have teeth, they have a sweet tooth. In the early summer they tend to go for protein-based foods such as meat. But by this time of year, they’ve moved on to pudding.
  • Clear your apples: Fallen apples from trees are a feast for wasps. They like fruit, the riper and more rotten the better and they will literally get drunk on the juice.
  • Lock up your wine and fizzy drinks: Wasps will be attracted to anything sugary, especially fizzy drinks and wine.
  • Wasps love yellow: It is true that the insects are attracted by certain colours, especially white and yellow. Like most insects, they cannot see red, so it’s worth investing in a red shirt, and even some red trousers.
  • Don’t splash the perfume: Even the scents in hairspray and hair gel are attractive to wasps.
  • Never – ever – poke a nest: A wasp’s nest is his castle, and he will defend it with utmost ferocity – as will his thousands of mates. If you see a nest, leave it well alone. Get expert help, or simply avoid until it dies in the winter.

How to get rid of wasps naturally

Natural insecticide spray Ecosmart’s Organic Wasp and Hornet killer uses 100 percent, food-grade ingredients, including peppermint oil. When reading over the instructions for use of this spray, you will see that you use this just like the typical poisonous spray, so if you are wanting to simply treat the same way as usual but with a more natural spray, this may be your best bet. It will smell quite strong, like essential oils, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Killing with soap

My friend Katie at Kitchen Stewardship tells how her husband got rid of a wasp nest simply using dishwasher soap and a hose-end sprayer! She gives her story and her instructions on how to do this method:


  • Use a good amount of dishwashing liquid in a hose-end sprayer, about 1/4 cup.
  • Get the water going until the suds begin.
  • Blast the nest from as far away as you can be (bee? ha!) while still maintaining a powerful spray.
  • Do the deed in the evening (dusk or later) after all the wasps have come home for the night.
  • And wear long pants and sleeves, just in case…especially if you have low water pressure. Winking smile

Drowning an aerial nest gives the following instructions for drowning wasps in aerial nests

“Aerial nests: Place a cloth bag over the entire nest and quickly tie it off at the top; as you draw in the tie, pull the nest free. The bag should be well sealed. Set the bag in a pail of water; drop a rock on the bag to keep it fully submerged."

However they caution removing nests in walls or underground yourself, but suggest hiring a professional in these cases.

Hanging false nests

Something that you can do to prevent a wasp problem is actually hanging a false wasp nest by your house (or by wherever you are wanting to deter them). There are a variety of products for this, some look very much like a paper lantern, and others look similar to a real nest, but they get good reviews online – even if they don’t work 100 percent of the time. They are supposed to work because wasps are territorial, and they won’t build next to another nest. Some even claim to have success by simply hanging up a brown paper bag!


There are also a variety of glass wasp traps that many claim are helpful in reducing wasp populations in their area. The trick is to make sure you keep replacing the bait, as wasps like fresh bait. And also, please consider using savory bait, such as tuna, as they will attract the yellow jackets and wasps, but not honeybees, which sweet bait will. The glass traps are actually very pretty, but you can also make your own inexpensive version out of any type of plastic bottle (soda pop bottle, or water bottle). Follow these instructions to make your own:

Those are some of the natural, safer methods I found for dealing with wasps in your yard.

But I’d love to hear from you! What natural methods have worked for you?

Jackie Carron Home Selling Team
Keller Williams Neighbourhood Realty Inc. Brokerage
2968 Dundas St W, Suite 303
Toronto, Ontario
M6P 1Y8

phone: 416-712-8840


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