a column for the Maryland Pesticide Network
Most wasps are beneficial--they are good pollinators, and eat other insects. Some wasps are parasites--they lay their eggs in caterpillars or roaches and help cut down on insects in your yard. Yellow Jacket wasps can become pesky in nature if they multiply.
How do I prevent wasps?
Stop feeding them. Yellow jacket populations will spike up when tasty food scraps abound. Good sanitation makes sense to keep rat populations down too. Be particularly aware of compost piles and bins. Bits of food scraps can be enticing. Be careful to wear shoes in the yard to avoid yellow jacket stings to your feet.
Trapping wasps can cut back their population. Apple juice or soda in a trap lures them in. Protein, such as a bit of chicken or cat food, can entice wasps when they are seeking protein to feed their young. Yellow jacket traps such as Oak Stump Farm have ledges for protein baiting. The wasps enter the traps sideways, and try to escape by going up, and they can't. They drown in the juice. Immerse a trap into a bucket of water to make sure they are drowned before cleaning out the trap. An active compost pile can be a good place for the dead wasps.
Less Toxic ways of eliminating wasp nests
You can use mint oil or clove oil sprays. These sprays are best used in the dark when wasps are at home in their nest and more easily contacted by the active ingredient As they are not active and flying at this time, they are not likely to bother you. Follow label directions, and be careful. Plan an escape route in case wasps do emerge. Be prepared with two cans of the less-toxic mint or clove oil spray. Wear long-sleeves and long pants to protect yourself.
Contacting a licensed pest control is one option. They have the protective equipment and knowledge about insects to help out. You as a consumer can request the least toxic approach, however, and for wasps these include: Vacuuming, Mint oil sprays, and application of diatomaceous earth (DE). Vacuuming is done during the day, with a vacuum carefully placed a few inches away from the nest opening, and run for several hours.
Alan Cohen is a licensed commercial pest control applicator in Maryland and DC, and the president of Bio-Logical Pest Management, Inc. He also serves as the Integrated Pest management advisor to the Maryland Pesticide Network, and is a board member of Beyond Pesticides.
to read Alan's Previous article about choosing native plants, and dealing with
bees and ants.