How to Handle Wasps and Hornets

You’re having a lovely barbecue outside with your family when you hear it: the angry little buzz of a wasp or hornet. Suddenly, everyone has jumped up and started running, all because of a tiny insect. 

While wasps, hornets, and yellow jackets may not be ideal neighbors for everyone, they do serve an important role in nature. Wasps are predators who control pests such as caterpillars and aphids. They also serve as pollinators in the garden. So while sting insects may scare some, in general, it’s a good idea to leave them be. Removing their secondary food sources—by cleaning up any food left after a barbecue—and covering trash cans can help to keep their numbers down. 

There are instances where leaving them alone isn’t feasible: if a person has a severe allergic reaction, there are a large number of them, or if the wasp nest is too close to the house and they become defensive. These are all good reasons to utilize wasp removal methods. 

By this time of year wasps or hornets are already relatively established in their nests. You’ll see these papery or honeycomb nests in protected areas such as under leaves or tucked into holes in trees. Occasionally paper wasps will build nests on tree branches as well. Hornets’ nests are large papery structures that are very easy to see if they’ve been built on your home or in a nearby tree. Bald-faced hornet nests are very large. They can be as large as 14 inches in diameter and more than 24 inches in length. If you see wasps and they have become a nuisance, ideally, you should call a professional. These insects can pack a powerful sting that can, and should, make you think twice about dealing with the issue yourself. However—if you’re a DIY kind of person—there are a few steps you can take to help prevent injury.

First, wear protective clothing. Long pants and long-sleeved shirts will help keep you from getting stung. Brinkmann’s Hardware carries a variety of wasp and hornet sprays that can be used to deter or kill wasps and hornets. 

Wasp and hornet killer should be applied in the evening when the queen and workers are all at home in their nest and are more docile. Be sure to never stand below the nest when you spray it. If it falls or is torn wasps will scatter everywhere and you stand a higher risk of getting stung. Spray the nest quickly and thoroughly and then leave the area. Most wasp and hornet killers work on contact so you’ll want to get the job done and get away quickly. Treatments are considered successful after the wasp nest is treated when the wasps present on the nest are killed. After you are sure they are all deceased you can remove the nest and treat the attachment area with more spray. Returning workers looking for the nest will make contact the residual spray and die. It is especially important to remove the nest if it’s inside the home—such as in an attic or void in the wall, otherwise secondary infestations by other pests can happen.

The most important thing to remember about wasp and hornet control is to be as safe as possible. While these insects harbor no ill will towards people, they can—and will—defend their nests. So use common sense. Only approach at night and wear protective clothing and you’ll be a little better prepared to take on the challenge.