Wasps are everyone’s least favorite visitor to porches, picnics, and outdoor gatherings in the summertime. If there was a way to make yourself invisible to a wasp, we’re sure everyone would want the secret! Well, the secret may just be in the colors around you.
Wasps are attracted to colors like yellow, white, pink, green, and purple. These colors replicate those of flowers where they find their prey, host insect, or delicious nectar to eat. Wasps are the least attracted to dark colors like blue and black.
Below we’ll go over the 5 colors that attract wasps so you can plan your porch decor, gardens, and even your clothes outfit to better avoid these pesky flying insects. Let’s get to it!
Can Wasps See Color?
You probably don’t see wasps landing on pretty flowers as much as bees or butterflies. Can these flying death machines see color, or do they live in a world of gray?
Wasps can see color fairly well on the visible spectrum from yellow to ultraviolet. They cannot see low-frequency colors such as red and infra-red.
Color is an important factor for wasps, but not all wasps are attracted to the same color. For example, a wasp that feeds on the nectar of purple orchid flowers will be more attracted to the color purple. Wasps that feed on spiders found on dandelions will be more attracted to the color yellow.
These are examples of specialized wasps that feed on specific food sources. Most wasps are generalists, meaning they’ll eat whatever is nearby and available.
Generalist wasps have a range of colors that they may flock toward but typically are not as narrow in their color palette as specialized wasps.
According to an article in the Journal of Comparative Physiology, wasps show sensitivity at three major wavelengths of color:
- 340 nm (ultraviolet)
- 430 nm (Violet-blue)
- 535 nm (Green)
Another small peak occurs around 600 nm (Yellow-orange). This is called trichromacy and is seen in many wasps, bees, and other flying insects.
5 Colors Wasps Are Attracted To And Why
Wasps come in all different shapes, sizes, and behaviors. Some are social wasps that build nests with dozens of other individuals. Others are solitary, preferring to live in the ground by themselves.
The most common wasps you’ll see around your home include:
- Bald-Faced Hornets
- Paper wasps
- Mud daubers
- Digger wasp
The two of most importance to people would be yellowjackets and bald-faced hornets, which tend to be the angriest of all the wasps. Paper wasps, mud daubers, and digger wasps stick to themselves and don’t cause too many problems except the occasional nest beneath an eave.
You can learn more about the difference between wasps and bees here.
When it comes to wasps, knowing what colors they are attracted to can help you plan your porch furniture, landscape, and other outdoor decorations to better avoid these menacing insects.
Wasps are attracted to five main colors:
These five colors are within a wasp’s color vision and, because they are trichromatic insects, they can differentiate fairly well between them.
Some wasps will be attracted to all of these colors, others only to specific colors within that range. It all depends on the species of wasp and what their natural environment, prey, host species, or food source looks like.
Knowing the colors wasps are attracted to and why they’re attracted to them is a crucial step in understanding why wasps are hanging around your yard or garden. Let’s check these colors out in detail!
Wasps Are Attracted To Pink
We picked a tough color to start with. According to many scientific communities, pink isn’t a color. Crazy, right?
Well, without going into too much detail, pink doesn’t show up on the electromagnetic spectrum of visible light. However, we humans and wasps have one thing in common: we can both see the color pink!
Pink is a combination of red and purple that our brain just sort of fudges together and spits out. But remember how we said wasps can’t see red? That’s what makes this color choice so interesting!
A study was performed at the Agricultural University of Athens that tried to determine the best color wasp trap to use to control pest wasps from bee apiaries.
They found that pink traps collected the most wasps, followed by yellow and then white. In this specific study, oriental hornets were the highest-captured wasp species. Their diet consists of normal wasp prey like flies, grasshoppers, and nectar.
However, oriental hornets are also known to eat pieces of fresh/spoiled meat and fish. Whether this has any correlation with their attraction to the color pink was not explored in the study.
Wasps Are Attracted To Yellow
Yellow is often associated with pretty flowers like sunflowers, pansies, Black-Eyed Susans, and marigolds. Yellow is also a color that wasps are attracted to.
An article in the Journal of Insect Conservation took a look at any potential benefits of using multiple colors of pan traps used to collect wasps. Typically, yellow is the color used when collecting wasps for scientific purposes, but they tested white, turquoise, and pink as well.
They found that, as predicted, yellow traps attracted the largest number of species. Any species that did not prefer the yellow traps usually preferred the white traps.
Another interesting part of this experiment was that of the 356 species of bees and wasps captured in the traps, only two species had a preference for colors other than yellow or white. This suggests that those two species are likely specialized to specific flowers or prey colors.
Although most wasps eat other insects and spiders for food, some rely solely on nectar or other sugars/carbs for food. One of the sources of food for these vegetarian wasps is honey from bees. This could be another reason why wasps are attracted to yellow.
If you’re thinking about using wasp traps around your home, some of the most highly rated ones will be yellow. Hoshi-s Outdoor Hanging Wasp Trap has a yellow cap to attract wasps. It comes with a convenient hanger so you can put it in areas where you know there is high wasp traffic.
Wasps Are Attracted To White
White is another one of those colors you won’t find on the color spectrum, but we humans and wasps can see it!
When we see the color white, we’re seeing a combination of all the colors of the visible spectrum being reflected at us. The colors are weird…
According to the University of Maryland, wasps are especially attracted to white flowers in the parsley family such as Queen Anne’s lace, hogweed, hemlock, wild carrot, and Pacific Angelica.
Wasps that are attracted to the color white are more likely to be pollinators and vegetarian wasps than not. The reason is that most prey animals (spiders, ants, flies, katydids, crickets, etc.) are not white.
There’s no other reason for a wasp to be attracted to the color white unless it is to a flower.
For a wasp to pollinate a flower, the nectar cannot be too deep in the flower such as on trumpet-shaped flowers. Wasps do not have long mouthparts or tongues and cannot reach them. Orchids are a great example of such a flower with a shallow nectar pool for wasps.
Wasps Are Attracted To Green
Green is one of the defining colors of nature. It’s certainly all around us when we walk outside, so why is it so important to wasps?
On the visible spectrum, green falls pretty much directly in the middle. It has a wavelength of 500-565 nm which, as we mentioned earlier, is one of the three peak sensitivity levels for wasps discerning color.
Green is the color of many prey animals for wasps such as katydids, cicadas, crickets, caterpillars, and some species of spiders. This may be a reason why wasps are attracted to green.
One of the more interesting reasons that wasps may be attracted to the color green revolves around something called a green-leaf volatile, or, GLV. GLVs are emitted by green plants when tissue is damaged such as by a caterpillar or other herbivore.
The scent is used to attract predators like wasps to let them know that there is food on the plant. Once the wasp arrives, it gets a meal and the plant gets rescued from the offending herbivore.
An article in the Journal of Current Biology took a look at an orchid plant, Epipactis helleborine, and its relationship to wasps and GLVs. This orchid is unique in that it can mimic GLVs without actually being damaged by herbivores.
The reason this specific orchid plant mimics GLVs is that it depends solely on wasps for pollination. This orchid is also pale green, which aids in attraction.
If you have these flowers near your window, it may be one of the ways that wasps got into your house.
Wasps Are Attracted To Violet And Ultraviolet
More accurately, wasps are attracted to violet, which falls around 380-450 nm on the visible spectrum. This is another one of those peak areas where wasps see color best.
There aren’t many prey insects out there that are purple/violet, so the most likely reason wasps are attracted to purple is because of nectar-providing flowers.
Violet is also very close to ultraviolet on the color spectrum, which is a ‘color’ that wasps can see but we humans cannot.
Some wasps like the European hornet wasps are nocturnal (as if we needed a nighttime wasp) and are attracted to UV light such as porch or floodlights.
Wasp traps like INORS Outdoor Hanging Wasp Trap use LED lights to attract nocturnal wasps. Just be aware that most wasps are active during the day, so you will not trap yellowjackets, paper wasps, or bald-faced hornets with LED lights.
Why Are Wasps Attracted To Certain Colors?
Wasps seem to gravitate toward all the bright, spring-time colors like yellow, pink, and purple. What is it about these colors that lure wasps into their vicinity?
We touched lightly on a few reasons why wasps are attracted to specific colors earlier. But let’s get into a little more detail here.
Resembles Colors Of Food And Prey
It’s a jungle out there, even for bugs. Almost all wasps must catch prey in the form of other insects. The color of their prey may indicate what color the wasp is particularly attracted to.
Most adult social wasps only catch prey to feed their young. As adults, social wasps feed on sugar from overripe fruit, nectar, or honeydew (a substance secreted by aphids).
Solitary wasps like mud daubers, digger wasps, and thread-waisted wasps are the ones that feed on other insects as adults.
Some wasps like the great golden digger wasp and great black wasp feed almost solely on katydids. These wasps are far more likely to be attracted to green than other wasps. The same can be said of other wasps who only eat specific prey.
Typically, you’ll hear a loud wasp fanning noise when wasps are going after their prey. Pretty neat!
Reminds Them Of Sugar, Nectar And Pollen Colors
Adult social wasps are attracted to flowers that have shallow nectar wells that are easily accessible. They also feed on overripe fruit juices and honeydew. These types of food provide the wasp with its favorite food: sugar!
Certain flowers like orchids and those of the parsley family have very shallow nectar wells that are attractive to wasps. Wasps that drink nectar from certain flowers are likely attracted to the same color as that flower because it is a food source.
Similarly, fruits are typically brightly colored in yellows, greens, and pinks. Wasps that feed on the juice of these fruits likely associate the color of the fruit with food, which makes that color attract the attention of wasps.
Honeydew is a sugary substance that aphids and several scale insects produce on plants. This typically occurs in a garden where aphids congregate to ruin all your hard work. This substance is white and is prized by ants, wasps, and bees.
Generally, wasps feed on things these colors during the day! If you’d like to learn more, take a look at our guide on where wasps go during the day.
What Colors Do Wasps Hate?
Now that we know all the colors that attract wasps, let’s talk about some of the colors that wasps are repelled by. Or, at the very least, they don’t like them very much.
In general, wasps do not like dark colors like blue and black. One theory about these colors is that predators like bears, skunks, and raccoons have dark-colored fur, so the wasp associates dark colors with predators.
A study done in the Journal of Insect Behavior offered wasps a choice between black, blue, red, green, and yellow paper. In the study, wasps consistently spent the least amount of time on the blue and black paper.
So, does this mean you should wear black all summer long? Not. In fact, in certain situations, wearing dark colors around wasps can work in the opposite way you want it to.
While mowing the lawn or weed-whacking, if you happen to run over a ground wasp nest, wearing dark colors can encourage a wasp to perceive you as a predator. For anyone that’s done this before, you know the results: Lots of running, waving of the arms, and let’s be honest, screaming like children.
However, if you’re enjoying some sweet tea on the porch or working in your garden, wearing a dark-colored shirt may help the wasps stay away as they will be wary to come near.
How To Use Colors To Repel Wasps
So, should you listen to The Rolling Stones and paint everything black to avoid those pesky wasps?
It’s not necessary to have exclusively dark-colored flowers in your garden or on your porch to avoid wasps. Most wasps will try to avoid humans if they can, and only become aggressive when their nests are disturbed.
That being said, the best way to use colors to repel wasps is to limit using the five main colors that wasps are attracted to yellow, white, green, purple, and pink. The fewer of these colors you have, the less attractive your yard is to a wasp.
Alternatively, if you decide that you can’t live without that pink wind chime or those yellow tulips, try using scent deterrents to keep wasps away from your decorations and flowers. Check out our article 8 Scents That Wasps Hate (And How To Use Them) to learn more!
Other Ways To Repel Wasps
If you’ve swapped all your bright pink porch signs and moved your purple pansies away from the house but are still plagued with wasps near your home, it may be time to use other tactics.
We mentioned wasp traps before, which can be useful, especially in high-traffic areas where wasps are frequent.
Another option is to use decoys. Mood Lab’s Wasp nest Decoy comes with 4 fake decoys that look like hornet nests. These come with hooks and nylon rope to hang them anywhere that wasps are a problem.
The idea behind decoys is that when a new queen emerges in the spring and is looking for a place to build a new nest, they will see this decoy and assume a wasp colony has already established itself in that location. The queen then moves on to a different area.
If wasps are starting to establish a nest, you may have to resolve to use wasp spray like Ortho Home Defense Hornet & Wasp Spray. This particular product can spray up to 20 feet, which is helpful, especially when dealing with a nest.
Always read the directions on the label before using the product.
If you’d like to learn more about the mechanics of wasp spray, take a look at our guide on how wasp spray works here!
Wasps can be pretty annoying to have around the home and yard. They’re creepy-looking and buzz around our plates at picnics and can ruin a day real quick with their painful stings.
The reason that wasps are buzzing around your porch and garden may have to do with the color selection of your flowers and decorations.
To recap, the five colors that wasps are attracted to include:
- Violet (including ultraviolet)
Wasps are attracted to these colors for several reasons, the main one being that their food is the same color, whether that be the color of the insects and spiders they eat or the color of the flower where they gather nectar.
You can reduce your interactions with wasps by limiting these colors from your porch, home, and garden. You can also use wasp traps, nest decoys, and wasp spray to keep those annoying wasps away.
If you can’t seem to get your wasp problem to go away on your own, you can always reach out to a professional for help! Our nationwide pest control finder can get you in contact with a professional near you.
Heneberg, P., & Bogusch, P. (2014). To enrich or not to enrich? Are there any benefits to using multiple colors of pan traps when sampling aculeate Hymenoptera? Journal of Insect Conservation, 18, 1123-1136. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10841-014-9723-8
Kawamata, R., Sato, Y., Suzuki, M., & Kainoh, Y. (2018). Color Preference and Associative Color Learning in a Parasitoid Wasp, Ascogaster reticulata (Hymenoptera: Braconidae). Journal of Insect Behavior, 31, 523-534. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10905-018-9696-7
Papas, E., Tassoula, L., Lazarakis, D., & Harizanis, P. (2022, February 08). Color preference of social wasps to non-toxic traps. Journal of Apicultural Research. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00218839.2021.2020951
Shuttleworth, A., & Johnson, S. D. (2009, September 18). The importance of scent and nectar filters in a specialized wasp-pollination system. Functional Ecology, 23(5), 931-940. https://besjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1365-2435.2009.01573.x
Zack is a Nature & Wildlife specialist based in Upstate, NY, and is the founder of his Tree Journey and Pest Pointers brands. He has a vast experience with nature while living and growing up on 50+ acres of fields, woodlands, and a freshwater bass pond. Zack has encountered many pest situations over the years and has spent his time maintaining and planting over 35 species of trees since his youth with his family on their property.
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