Keep the perimeter of your home clean, avoid planting fragrant flowers, and seal any cracks and crevices on your property.
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wasp types with names
Credit: Corinne Mucha

While warm weather opens up a variety of exciting opportunities—beach days, outdoor gardening, and barbecues—it also brings one unwanted thing with it: wasps. "Summer is peak activity time for stinging insects and as families head outdoors in droves to enjoy the warm weather, they should also be aware and on guard to protect against encounters with hornets, wasps and other summer stingers," says Jim Fredericks, Ph.D., chief entomologist for the National Pest Management Association (NPMA)

Wasps often flock to gardens as blooms begin to appear and set up shelter in places of your home where they can protect themselves from the hot sun. "When outdoors, be aware that stinging insects can build nests underground, in trees, shrubs, overhangs, eaves, utility poles, tires, houses, sheds and other structures, depending on the species," Fredericks says. Although the summertime nuisance may seem unavoidable, there's a handful of ways you can deter wasps from approaching the perimeter of your yard. 

Types of Wasps

There are about 4,000 different types of wasps in the United States, according to Fredericks, but a few species are more common than others. 

Mud Daubers

Less aggressive than other types of wasps, mud daubers rarely sting. This variety gets its name because of its tendency to build mud nests on buildings and homes. "They are beneficial since they help reduce the numbers of some pest insects and spiders," says Ian Williams, entomologist at Orkin. They're defined by their long, slender waist and dark black or blue metallic color that sometimes has yellowish or green body markings.

Paper Wasp 

Paper wasps range in color from brown to yellow and may even have reddish markings. "They build open nests shaped like inverted umbrellas, constructed from papery material they produce from saliva and chewed bits of wood," says Fredericks. "The nests are often seen hanging under eaves, shutters, or underneath decks or railings."

Yellowjackets 

One of the most common and aggressive wasp pests, you'll be able to identify yellow jackets from their yellow body with black markings. "Unlike bees, yellowjackets don't look fuzzy, so they are easy to differentiate from honey bees and bumblebees," Fredericks says. The insects are highly territorial and will sting if their nests—which typically live in the ground or in voids like dead trees or the wall of homes—are threatened. Wasps are known to sting repeatedly and can cause allergic reactions. "They feed on sweets and proteins, so be sure to clean up any crumbs or spills and cover all food items at outdoor events," Fredericks says. 

Bald-Faced Hornets

The most aggressive of the commonly encountered stinging insects in the country, bald-faced hornets are black with pale yellow or white markings. They build large grayish, football-shaped nests in trees, bushes, or on buildings. Large colonies can grow nests to the size of a watermelon by the end of summer, Fredericks says. 

How to Prevent Wasps In or Around Your Home

Wasps are most common during the second half of summer and early fall when colonies are at their largest and the pests are actively searching for food. Despite how prevalent they are, it is possible to deter the insect from finding safe harbor in or near your property. 

Seal Cracks and Crevices 

Keep wasps from entering your home by filling any small gaps or cracks in your foundation with an appropriate sealant. "If you have screens on your doors or windows, make sure they don't have any tears since wasps can fit through tiny holes," Williams says. "Make sure vents and screens leading to your attic are in good condition and have small enough screening to deny wasps entry, but still large enough to allow airflow." 

Use Peppermint Oil 

According to Williams, peppermint oil is known to be an effective wasp repellent. Mix a few drops with water in a spray bottle and use it in areas where wasps may be drawn to, like overhangs, eaves, picnic tables, the underside of porches and desks, as well as in shrubs, trees, and sheds. 

Cover Food and Drinks

Keeping your yard clean is one of the most important aspects of wasp prevention. "Wasps, like yellow jackets, are drawn to areas that have large amounts of food waste, garbage, and recycled containers that are poorly washed," Williams says. The stinging insects are also lured in by sweets and proteins. "Keep food covered before and after cooking, and keep sweet drinks covered or in a clear container so that if a wasp does get into the drink, it can be seen before taking a sip," Williams adds. Additionally, be sure to clean up any crumbs or spills and keep garbage bin lids securely closed.  

How to Prevent Wasps in Your Garden

Wasps are attracted to gardens because they are looking for something sweet, nourishment, or water, according to Adrienne Roethling, the director of curation and mission delivery at the Paul J. Ciener Botanical Garden. "Something sweet can come from the scent of a flower, the sugar in soda, or even the perfume that you wear," she says, adding that nourishment is pollen on flowers. "Lastly, when it's hot and dry, they are looking for a water source—puddles, birdbaths, streams, water droplets—anything that can hydrate them." Remove some of these things from your garden and you'll have a better shot at keeping the pests at bay. 

Avoid Colorful or Fragrant Flowers

Growing any type of flower in your garden means you run the risk of attracting wasps, as the plants serve as a food source. However, avoiding fragrant and brightly colored flowers will keep wasp numbers low. Additionally, limit the amount of foliage plants in your garden that wasps may find attractive, like caladium, ferns, hosta, heuchera, and succulents.

Remove Their Food Source 

Clean up any kitchen garden waste or scraps. "Do not let tomatoes, figs, peppers, strawberries, or more rot on the ground in the vegetable garden," Roethling says. "I encourage folks to have a compost pile that is far away from the garden." Wasps also prey on a variety of bugs crawling in your garden, like aphids—clean plants of aphids to make your garden a less habitable environment for the insects. "Sometimes using a hose with high volume can spray the aphids away," Roethling says.

Grow Decoy Plants

Keep wasps from coming near high traffic areas of your yard like the pool, garden, and patio by planting decoy plants elsewhere on your property. "Wasps are attracted to herbs like fennel, or ornamental plants like goldenrod and thistle," says Roethling. Planting these in spaces you don't often frequent can keep wasps further away from your garden. 

How to Get Rid of Wasps 

If wasp prevention is unsuccessful and a colony has created a nest on your property, there are a few steps you can take to get rid of them. However, if the problem persists, it's likely you'll need to call in a professional to safely remove the stinging insects from your home. 

Hang Wasp Traps

Although it's best to have a professional handle the dangerous pests, there are a few other measures you can take to get rid of wasps. Williams says the most common and effective way is to hang traps. "When they crawl into the trap, they get stuck and drown," he says. "Traps should be hung away from the area you are trying to protect."

Spray Wasp Nests

Additionally, Williams says you can spray wasp nests with a store-bought wasp nest spray. If you go this route, he says to wear protective clothing and to spray the area on a cool morning when wasps tend to be less active. 

Soap and Water

Create a mixture that's 2 tablespoons of dish soap and water and pour it into a spray bottle, then spray it on the nests. "The portion will clog the wasps' pores, killing them almost instantly," Williams says. 

Call a Professional

Fredericks warns that stinging insects can become aggressive if provoked, so it's best to contact a licensed pest control professional to safely remove the nest from your property. "If you spot a nest, address it as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the larger and more aggressive the colony will become," he says.

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