Vinegar: Why It Works To Repel Wasps And How To Use It

Yellow Jacket Wasps Crawling On Nest

Wasps can ruin a picnic or a day out in the garden when you accidentally come across a nest. No one wants them hanging around your house, so how can you repel and keep wasps away?

Vinegar is an effective control and repellant measure for controlling wasps. Wasps can’t stand the pungent smell of vinegar and will avoid areas that reek of the sour acid. You can use a spray of vinegar mixed with water and dish soap to get rid of them for good.

Armed with vinegar you no longer have to be afraid of wasps. You can use the natural ingredient to get rid of nests, repel them and keep them off your property. You can even use vinegar to create traps to get them before they have a chance to build a nest nearby.

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What’s The Difference Between Bees And Wasps?

Though at first buzz, these insects may look a lot the same, they actually have a lot of distinct differences.

Both bees and wasps have stingers and they both are able to fly. Bees typically don’t sting unless they need to, while wasps are more likely to sting. Bees also make honey, while very limited species of wasps make honey and the majority, do not.

Wasps and bees look alike – mixed with darker and lighter-colored stripes, however, more differences exist than similarities. Let’s talk about it below!

Bees Are Fuzzy

Bees are typically very fuzzy looking. If you happen to get close enough to a bee, you will see they are covered in a thick covering of fuzz. This helps them to collect pollen as they fly from flower to flower.

Bees often feed on the pollen that sticks to their hairs and they feed it to their larvae. Pollen provides essential nutrients and protein. So, the extra hairs all over their body not only help to pollinate the flowers they visit, but they help to collect an extra food source.

Wasps on the other hand have hairs on their bodies too, but they are much smaller and spread out. At a distance, wasps look smooth and sleek, adding to their menacing appearance. Their sleek bodies make them look more aerodynamic and frightening as they swarm through the air.

Wasps Can Sting Multiple Times

When a honeybee stings someone or something, its stinger gets stuck and they have to leave it behind when they fly off. This is a game ender for the bee, so they only have one sting. Wasps on the other hand can sting multiple times. 

When wasps land on a person or threat, they will often sting several times. That is until they are swatted away, or in my case smashed, flattened, smeared, and obliterated with great malice.

Bumblebees and carpenter bees can also sting multiple times, but they rarely sting people. If you were to catch one in your hand or step on it barefooted, then it may sting you, otherwise, these bees just want to get away.

Wasps Are More Aggressive Than Bees

Wasps will often defend their nests from people and animals that get too close with a multitude of stings.

Yellow jackets and bald-faced hornets are some of the most aggressive wasps in North America. Loud sounds, vibrations, and in some cases, even clothing colors can incite a stinging attack from these flying menaces. Wasps do make a few more sounds than that!

According to the University of California Agriculture & Natural Resources, western yellow jackets are the most aggressive of the wasps. This aggressive, defensive behavior increases dramatically late in the season when food gets scarce, and the colony is full.

Bees Are More Patient

Honeybees, carpenter bees, and bumblebees are typically more docile and don’t want to sting anyone unless their nests are disturbed or feel very threatened – they have more patience.

Wasps on the other hand have no compunction when it comes to stinging. Personally, I feel like wasps enjoy stinging, but that’s my biased opinion.

Bees typically take to flying away from harms way before they resort to stinging. The exception to this rule is the Africanized honeybee. These insects are the most aggressive and won’t hesitate to sting, though it usually means their guts are ripped out when they leave the stinger behind.

Wasps Are Predatory

Honeybees feed on flower nectar and pollen, and the larvae and queen bees are fed royal jelly. Which is a gelatinous substance created by some of the bees themselves. Wasps on the other hand feed on other insects, fats, and sometimes carrion.

Some wasps also feed on flower nectar, but they often feed on young insects. This makes wasps and hornets vital parts of the ecosystem in keeping the insect population down. This fact may not ease your prejudice toward these stinging bugs—it certainly doesn’t in my case.

Bald-faced hornets, along with many other types of wasps prey on caterpillars and other garden pests, making them beneficial insects. They take the caterpillars and other bugs to their nests where they feed them to the larvae.

You can read more about the major bee and wasp differences here in order to tell them apart a bit better!

Why Vinegar Works To Repel Wasps

A yellow wasp is drinking water out of a stone bowl

Vinegar works to repel wasps because of the sharp, strong odor, as wasps have a very keen sense of smell. They use their strong sense of scent to find food and sense predators.

Vinegar, as you already know, has a harsh smell, and not many creatures like the smell of vinegar alone. This odor is enough to make wasps fly off in the other direction, away from the harsh scents.

Additionally, the scent of vinegar is often overpowering and masks other nearby scents, causing wasps not to be able to detect OTHER scents that would otherwise attract them. Thus, keeping them away from the area.

Check out our article for a full list of scents that wasps hate for other natural options if you’d rater!

The Acidity Of Vinegar Irritates Wasps

The acidity of the vinegar. specifically diluted white vinegar is what irritates insects such as wasps. Most diluted white vinegar is acetic acid and water mixed together. The white vinegar you purchase in the store is usually diluted down to 4 or 5% acidity.

This acidity is an irritant to most insects. It gets into their systems and affects their nervous system and it works to dry the insects out. That’s why with some insects when you spray them with vinegar, they drop immediately.

How To Use Vinegar To Repel Wasps

You don’t have to purchase caustic chemicals to ward off wasps, you can use all-natural white vinegar. It’s better for the environment because vinegar breaks down quickly and doesn’t contaminate water or the ground, and is better for your home

Aside from a pop-up thunderstorm, the next best way a picnic, pool party, or outside gathering is ruined is by the introduction of wasps. These pests seem to be attracted to fruits, sodas, juices, and other foods that are synonymous with outdoor festivities.

If you’re wondering why wasps are attracted to your yard in the first place, click on the link to check out our in-depth guide!

Mix Up A Vinegar Repelling Spray

You can prevent these tragedies by spraying a solution of vinegar and water to repel these unwanted guests. Simply mix up a spray bottle with a 50/50 solution of white vinegar and water, and spray anywhere you don’t want wasps around.

The smell will keep stinging bugs away, and it could keep away other bugs like flies, and ants.

If these bugs still start to come around—though it’s unlikely—you can use the vinegar and water mix as a pesticide. Just spray them directly when they get near. They will quickly make a hasty exit.

The vinegar smell will fade away with time, so you will have to reapply the spray occasionally. This helps to keep the odor fresh and continues to tell the bugs they aren’t allowed at your party.

Soak Rags In Vinegar

So, this is another simple way to use vinegar as a repellent for wasps and really any other pest trying to get near your yard.

Using gloves, you can simply soak rags, old t-shirts, or even old bedding in diluted white vinegar and place it in areas where you want to keep wasps away from.

This will help the scent linger a bit longer and will ultimately let you avoid spraying vinegar directly on surfaces.

Make sure to rewet the rags every so often so theres some vinegar smell coming off of the rags!

Other Ways To Get Rid Of And Repel Wasps

Wasp Nest

We get it, some people don’t have craft items lying around to make everything. Maybe you simply don’t have the time in the day to make your own wasp trap. We understand and we have you covered. 

Reusable Solar Powered Hanging Outdoor Wasp Traps are just what you need. They have solar lights, and a tray at the bottom to hold your solution that attracts and drowns wasps and hornets.

Just hang them wherever you have noticed wasp activity. They will be attracted to the sweet smelling solution you add inside, then they will no longer “bug” you.

Use Nest Decoys To Keep Wasps Away

Most wasps and hornets are very territorial, so you can use that trait against them. If these insects see nests, whether they are live and active or not, they won’t build a nest nearby. Another way to keep wasps away is to hang up fake nests.

Use these DECYOOL 6 Pack Wasp Nest Decoy to keep wasps from moving in. These are lightweight polyester so they won’t absorb water.

Just hang them in trees, under decks, or wherever you want to keep wasps and hornets away.

They will see these hanging around and think there are active hives nearby. This works for hornets, and yellow jackets, some of the most aggressive and ready to sting wasps out there.

Don’t Wear Or Use Bright And Floral Colors

Bright colors and especially floral patterns can attract wasps and bees toward you. They are attracted to bright reds, pinks, and sometimes yellows and oranges. The colors of the flowers they like to feed from.

Check out our article about the colors that wasps are attracted to for more information on that!

Don’t Wear Sweet-Smelling Perfumes

Sweet-smelling perfumes, body sprays, and deodorants can also attract wasps to you.

They not only eat insects but they are attracted to sweet scents. Wasps will try to feed off sugary foods, drinks, and sweet smelling scents like that vanilla perfume you like so much.

Anything that resembles nectar and sugar will attract wasps for a quick inspection!

Some Tips To Remember If You’ve Encountered A Wasp

If you happen to encounter a wasp – there are a few things you should avoid doing.

Don’t Swing At Wasps

Yes, this is tough advice to take when the instinct is to swat the pests away. The problem is, swinging at wasps can incite them to aggression and stinging.

When a wasp stings someone, they release a pheromone that tells others to come help out.

Don’t Immediately Swat The Wasp

The same pheromones are released when you crush a wasp. I know, I don’t typically listen to this advice either, when all we want to do is squash the invader that’s causing the pain. And again, this can attract more wasps to the space.

But try to remain calm if a wasp gets a little close for comfort, and calmly, yet swiftly move out of the way.

If you happen to get too close to a nest, quickly get away. Stay calm if they have not swarmed, but if they are flying at you, just run away, in a straight line, as fast as you can.

If a wasp has gotten into your home, check out our piece on what to do if bees and wasps get into your house here!

The Best Way To Get Rid Of Wasp Nests

The safest way to get rid of wasp nests is to call a professional pest service. They have the equipment to effectively get rid of them for you. This way, you don’t have to worry about getting stung while they defend their home.

If you are determined to get rid of them yourself, there are a few ways to get rid of yellow jackets in the ground, and paper-wasps that have nests in eaves and overhangs.

Hornets and wasps in trees shouldn’t be messed with at all. You’ll should contact professionals to get rid of them.

Wait Until Dark If you’re Going To Remove Wasps

During cool nights, most bees and wasps are sluggish and don’t move as fast. Wait until later to get rid of the nests because the wasps will all be in the nest and they will be slower to react.

While I recommend calling a professional, you should always use wasp spray for knocking down a wasp nest. Here’s more on how wasp spray works for steps on how to use it against wasps.

You can also read our guide on getting rid of wasp nests WITHOUT getting stung as well.

Closing Thoughts About Vinegar And Wasps

If you have problems with wasps, vinegar can be your best friend! The strong scent of diluted white vinegar can overpower a wasps senses, causing them to stay away.

If you don’t have plenty of vinegar on hand all the time, then it’s high time to start making it a staple. Vinegar is quite useful at keeping wasps and other pests away. You can read more on how to use vinegar to repel the following critters if you’d like:

References:

Rau, Phil. “The nesting habits of the bald-faced hornet, Vespa maculata.” Annals of the Entomological Society of America 22.4 (1929): 659-675.

Parrish, Mark D. “Factors influencing aggression between foraging yellowjacket wasps, Vespula spp.(Hymenoptera: Vespidae).” Annals of the Entomological Society of America 77.3 (1984): 306-311.

Thomson, James D. “Reversal of apparent feeding preferences of bumble bees by aggression from Vespula wasps.” Canadian Journal of Zoology 67.10 (1989): 2588-2591.

Kumazawa, Shigenori, et al. “Direct evidence for the plant origin of Brazilian propolis by the observation of honeybee behavior and phytochemical analysis.” Chemical and Pharmaceutical Bulletin 51.6 (2003): 740-742.

Sherry, David F., and Caroline G. Strang. “Contrasting styles in cognition and behaviour in bumblebees and honeybees.” Behavioural processes 117 (2015): 59-69.

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