9 Ways To Get Rid Of Wasp Nests (Without Getting Stung)
I bet you’ve had this happen before; you’re out enjoying a soda on your patio or grabbing lunch by the pool; you look down, and there’s an angry-looking yellow and black insect sitting on your apple slices. “Ah! Where’d that wasp come from?”
The best way to get rid of wasp nests is to use a commercial wasp knockdown spray.
Once you find out that a nest has been built somewhere on your property, you’re going to want to deal with it as quickly – and safely – as possible. So, if you’re ready to handle your wasp problem, keep reading.
What Do Wasps Do, and Why Do We Need Them
Wasps are the neighbors nobody wants to move into their neighborhood, but a single wasp or two is a good thing. These narrow-waisted cousins of bees have been around since the Jurassic period, hunting bugs that humans consider pests.
While that’s great news for gardeners or large-scale agricultural operations, most people don’t want to see wasps cruising around their backyards. Wasps are omnivores. They eat the spiders, insects, and larvae that eat all those tender garden plants and a lot of the landscaping flowers you’ve worked so hard on.
Well, at least they hunt those things (and feed them piece by piece to their larvae). Adult wasps eat nectar, honeydew from aphids, flowers, and sometimes carrion (dead bugs). So, seeing a hunting wasp in your yard isn’t a bad thing.
Seeing a nest of them, though? That’s different.
No matter which method you’re going to use to safely get rid of your wasp nest, the very first thing you need to do is identify the type of wasp you’re dealing with.
Oh, and if you’re asking, wasps don’t make honey.
What Are The Most Common Kinds Of Wasps?
Wasps are broken up by whether they’re social or solitary insects.
Solitary wasps can sting, but their venom is more built for paralyzing their prey than for hurting you, so even if they sting you, it’s not particularly painful.
These kinds of wasps do build nests, but mostly they’re filled with eggs and larvae (and the bugs the adult wasp has planted there are a lunchbox for the larvae).
Solitary wasps usually nest in the ground and are generally active in the summer. They’re generally not territorial and some don’t even bother to defend their nests.
According to the University of Minnesota, some solitary wasps are:
- Weevil wasps
- Black and yellow mud dauber
- Potter wasps (mason wasps)
- American sand wasps
- Spider wasps (including tarantula hawk wasps)
- Blue mud dauber
- Great golden digger wasps
- Bee wolves
- Cicada killers
- Great black wasps
- Thread-waisted wasps
Social wasps, on the other hand, have venom tailor-made for maximum pain and will swarm and sting invaders to defend their nests. Social wasps also exist in colonies of thousands, so that’s a lot of wasps playing defense.
While some social wasps, like the German yellowjacket, are more docile than others, some (looking at you, Southern yellowjackets!) are all forms of cranky and aggressive and have no problem letting you know it.
Social wasps spray pheromones on invaders so that everyone knows who to sting as they swarm out of the colony to defend it. That’s not the kind of perfume you want to wear.
On the list of social wasps, we have:
- Yellowjackets (German, eastern, and southern)
- Paper wasps (including Northern)
Are Hornets and Wasps the Same Thing?
If a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, a hornet – or wasp – is still the same kind of insect. The difference is that the term “hornets” covers the kind of social wasps that make their nests a certain way (chewed paper and saliva).
If you are having difficulties telling apart different types of flying insects, consider reading our article on the 6 honey bee and wasp differences!
How Do I Get Rid of a Wasp Nest?
There’s more than one kind of wasp, and there’s more than one kind of nest.
A small aerial wasp nest, like the ones paper wasps build, is usually built underneath overhangs. They like a good view and shelter, so you’ll see them under roof support beams or the underside of your covered porch.
Hornets, on the other hand, build very distinct aerial nests that can get ridiculously large. They look like someone’s papier-mache project.
Underground nests are a whole different beast, and chances are good that you don’t even know you have one until you tick off the inhabitants by running over their roof with a lawnmower. You won’t see the nest, but you’ll see the hole in your lawn that’s the entrance to the hive.
While it’s possible to handle one on your own, it’s probably better to call in help if you want to be sure it’s KO’d.
Pro-Tip: You should always wear protective clothing when you’re dealing with wasps. Long sleeves, gloves, pants, something to cover your head, like a tightly tied hood. If this is something you have to deal with a lot, you might consider grabbing an inexpensive beekeeper’s jacket.
A word to the wise: if you’re allergic to bee or wasp stings, get professional wasp removal help or have someone else do it.
Can I Remove a Wasp Nest Myself?
Again, finding a large aerial nest should have you on the phone with your local trusted exterminator, but if the nest isn’t too big, you can handle it yourself. Here’s how.
First thing… wait until evening.
It’s tempting to try and deal with your wasp problem as soon as you find it, but that’s not always the best idea.
Wasps are generally diurnal, meaning they’re out and about during the day doing waspy things like catching bugs and landing on the watermelon you left on your plate. If they’re out, they’re going to miss the date with destiny you need them to have.
Once you’ve found your wasp nest, wait until sundown or later because wasps are generally A) in the hive and B) dormant by then. (They do housekeeping in the evening or go quiet to save energy).
You can identify if they’re active near the nest by listening for the certain sounds and noises that wasps make.
However, you’ll still need to be careful because wasps will reactivate very easily with light. If you can, use a red light flashlight like the WayLLShine High Power One Mode Red LED flashlight. Red light means you’ll be able to see what you’re doing without risking losing your night vision or waking up the wasps.
If it’s an emergency wasp removal and you can’t get your hands on a red light flashlight, you can grab some red paper and cover your flashlight’s business end with it. It won’t be perfect, but it’ll be better than nothing.
Once the sun is down and most of the wasps are tucked away for the night, you can proceed with Waspageddon.
How Do I Get Rid Of Wasps Without getting Stung?
The key to successfully getting rid of wasps without being stung is half technique, half your weapon of choice.
The trick is staying as far away as possible while still being able to hit the nest with your spray. If you’re using a wasp spray, you’ll be looking at something that can give you a solid stream from as far away as possible.
When spraying, you want to hit the nest entrance first. The wasps are going to scramble like fighter pilots hearing an alarm and trying to launch to deal with whatever’s attacking their hive.
Spraying the entrance, especially if you’re using insecticidal foamers, makes sure that any wasps that do get outcome into contact with the spray.
Once the entrance is covered, hose down the rest of the hive and keep spraying until you don’t see anything moving anymore. You’ll know you’ve done it right when you see all the wasps lying on the ground.
Pro-Tip: Getting rid of wasps isn’t over until you’ve swept up the wasps and put them in the trash. That’s not something you want to leave lying around!
Now that you know the basics of how to eliminate your wasp problem, let’s look at what you can use to do it.
Commercial wasp sprays can Eliminate Wasps
Commercial sprays are effective and formulated so that you can stay at a safe distance when committing insecticide. They’re commercially available pretty much wherever you look.
Commerical anti-wasp formulas eliminate wasps by using pyrethroids and pyrethrins, chemicals that zap the wasp nervous system. Hit a wasp with this and you’re knocking it out of the sky and neutralizing it in one quick shot.
Pro-Tip: go here to see what the EPA says about pyrethroids.
Buying a can of wasp spray gets you certain results. You know what you’re spraying is going to work the way you want it to. Just open and fire a jet of insecticidal eviction from a nice, safe distance.
Another benefit to commercial wasp sprays is residue: pyrethrins can create a residual effect that lasts up to two or three months and eliminates wasps if they come back to that area.
One of the more reputable products out there is Hot Shot’s Wasp & Hornet Spray which is non-staining if you’d like to take a look!
There are downsides to the sure bet that is wasp spray, though. You’re limited to how much pesticide is in the can, and (with a few exceptions) aerosols aren’t always the most environmentally friendly things.
Also, when spraying any insecticide, you need to be careful. Do not spray if you’re standing downwind, or if it’s a windy day. Wear protective clothing. Do follow all the warnings on the package.
If you prefer to go green in your pest control, don’t worry. Here are a few natural options that work just as well but will keep your garden, pets, and kids safe from leftover or wind-blown insecticides.
If you’d like to learn more, take a look at our article on the mechanics about how wasp spray works here.
DIY Natural Wasp Eliminator and Repellents
It turns out that wasps hate peppermint oil… we mean hate it.
Take advantage of that by making a solution of 1 tablespoon of peppermint oil to 4 cups of water and spraying it directly onto the wasp nest. You can easily find something like this Handcrafted Peppermint Oil on Amazon!
Oh, you’re also going to want a strong spray bottle… none of that short, weak stuff. Make sure you look for one that specifically says it sprays a powerful stream.
Pro-Tip: You must use peppermint oil. Mint essential oil just doesn’t have that special something that wasps hate. Choose wisely.
Direct contact with the spray solution eliminates wasps in all of their life cycles.
Want a bonus? Most home remedies for wasps just last for that application, but the lingering smell of peppermint will keep any wasps away from the nesting site you sprayed. Your yard ends up wasp-free and smelling minty-fresh.
To keep repelling those bugs, just reapply your peppermint solution once a week during the wasp season (usually summer to fall) in any areas you’ve seen wasps.
I do highly recommend taking a look at our full guide on the scents that wasps hate to get a better grasp on using these types of repellents!
Don’t want to wait or can’t find peppermint essential oil fast enough? Try the next method.
Get Rid Of Wasps With Soapy Water
If you’re really in a jam about getting rid of a wasp nest and need to do it very quickly, or if peppermint oil isn’t something you can easily find, you can use soapy water.
Yes, we’re serious.
Fast, cheap, easy, and non-toxic, soapy water makes a film around the wasps when they’re sprayed with it. They can’t fly, and since they breathe through their skin, they suffocate extremely quickly.
That means they don’t sting you.
To make wasp-eliminating soap spray, just mix 2-3 cups of water with up to 1/2 cup of dish soap (you can probably use less.) Load your mixture into a spray bottle with a strong spray mechanism and let loose (you can also use a pressure washer if you have one.)
Pro-Tip: If you have a ground nest, pouring boiling water into the nest (remember your dish soap!) will take care of any wasps and larvae. You’ll probably need more than one bucketful, though.
Use Sticky Wasp And Fly Traps
This is what you use if you’re not interested in a fast elimination or a confrontation, or if you’re not sure where the wasp nest is.
Sticky traps are great for slow but relentless elimination of your pest problem with zero pesticides sprayed around your yard. Wasps are attracted to the bait in the trap, get stuck when they land, and eventually, reach their end.
Just hang them wherever you see wasps and wait. You’ll have to set multiple traps and replace them every so often when they get full, but that’s easy to do.
Our favorite sticky wasp trap is Rescue! Wasp TrapStik. This has a wasp-specific bait, so it won’t attract bugs you’d rather keep around.
Wasp Trapping Bowls can Get Rid of Wasps
All you need is a big bowl of water, apple cider vinegar, a little sugar, and a little dish soap.
Think of this as a land mine for wasps, who love sugary liquids. They get attracted by the sugar water, land in it, get covered in soapy water, and… well, let’s just say that this isn’t the way you want your soda runs to end.
There’s a concern about attracting more than wasps with this method, but if you want to keep your bee population and not your wasp population, apply some apple cider vinegar to the rim of the bowl. Bees can’t stand the stuff, but wasps can’t get enough.
All you’ll need to do is empty the bowl every few days and refill it. Set out your homemade wasp bowls wherever you see wasps.
Freeze Wasps To Remove Them
If you can’t stand the smell of peppermint oil and you’d rather save your dish soap for actual dishes, or if you’re nervous about being around stinging insects, there’s another option; Freezing spray.
This canned liquid freezes wasps on contact so that there’s little concern about an angry wasp coming after you. It’s a little pricier than your normal wasp-removing sprays, but it works very well.
We recommend Prescription Treatment Wasp Freeze (outdoor use only, please!).
Get Rid Of Wasps With Liquid Wasp Traps
Liquid wasp traps are very similar to homemade wasp trap bowls, with one difference; you hang them up.
The difference between these traps and the non-liquid ones is that liquid traps drown wasps, and the non-liquid ones end up giving them terminal dehydration. Either way, they’re both easy to dispose of.
We recommend a reliable liquid wasp trap like Ven-Trap Wasp Trap.
You can even recycle (hey, that’s green, right?) empty soda bottles into very effective wasp traps by adding a funnel trap attachment (easily found online). Just add apple juice concentrate, yeast, or some leftover meat and watch the wasps pour in for their last meal.
Try Out Reusable No-liquid Wasp Traps
This is the kind of trap that uses baits that smell good to wasps. The good thing about these traps is that they’re targeted to the bug you’re trying to eliminate. That means you won’t be unintentionally removing things like honeybees, which you do want to keep around.
Rescue! Reusable Yellowjacket Trap is a reliable and easy trap that gives you wasp control with minimal fuss and bother.
Remove Wasps With Wasp Repellent Dust
This is what you use if your stingy neighbors are the underground kind.
Insecticide dust is the powdery version of the commercial wasp sprays you’ve been eyeballing at the local hardware store.
The trick to applying it is to load it into a bulb applicator and then spray the entrance to the wasp nest so that any wasps coming out are coated with the dust.
Insecticide dust will need more than one application over time, but eventually, all the wasps will either crawl through the dust and carry it deeper into the nest or just plain keel over.
As with any insecticide, you need to make sure to clean up any wasps left lying on the ground. You don’t want any pets or wildlife getting into them!
How Do I Keep Wasps from Coming Back?
The last way to keep get rid of wasp nests without being stung is to keep them from ever showing up in the first place.
Wasps are territorial. They don’t like to nest near other hives, so, if there’s another wasp nest around, they stay away. They just don’t see the point of competing for resources with other hunters.
Which is where a decoy nest comes in.
Decoy nests are usually massive paper lantern that mimics a large hornet or beehive. Just hang them in areas that wasps might like so any incoming insects will assume the territory’s been claimed and go elsewhere.
Decoy nests are easily available online, or you can make your own by stuffing a brown paper bag with newspaper and hanging it from your eaves. Easy peasy!
A quick note, if you actually have wasps in your home, take a look at our guide on the ways that wasps got into your house here.
Where Do Wasps Nest?
Wasps don’t just nest in the eaves of your house, although that’s probably what you think of when you hear “wasp nest”.
Wasps like to live where there’s a good view. Usually, that’s high up on overhead beams, in the upper sections of trees, or on the roof of the shed you haven’t gone into in a while. Social wasps are territorial and aggressive about it, so finding a nest is a big deal.
If you have a problem with a social burrowing wasp, you may never know you have thousands (yes, thousands) of them until you accidentally disturb them while mowing the lawn.
On the other hand, it’s a lot easier to notice the big ball of a hive hanging from the eaves of your house like an incredibly ugly Christmas ornament filled with anger and pain.
If a nest isn’t near humans, the wasps will usually leave people alone. The wasps might buzz you, but they’ll generally keep to themselves.
You can read more about where wasps nest and what they do during the day in our article!
What Does a Wasp Nest Look Like?
Aerial nests are generally easy to spot. They’re hanging from your eaves or the underside of your covered porch, and they look like someone decided to do a macrame pot project and just hang it up without telling you.
The other kind of nest is the more familiar honeycomb shape that doesn’t have any covering. You can see exactly what’s in the nest. That means you’ll also see exactly how many wasps are building their paper condo on your house.
When Is it Best to Remove a Wasp Nest?
Wasps are active in the summer months and during the day, so if you’re planning to DIY your nest removal, you should always wait until evening.
Wasps go dormant and die during winter, so if you can wait until the weather gets cold, you should. Taking out an empty wasp nest is a lot easier than dealing with one loaded with active wasps.
If you don’t see active wasps around a nest, there’s a good chance it’s an old one. Paper wasps and yellow jackets are picky, and they like to change sites every year. An old nest has a good chance of being an empty one.
You also may find it useful to not wear one of the colors that wasps are attracted to as well.
Are Wasps Active at Night?
Most wasps are out and about during the day, so the nest will be mostly quiet at night. Mostly. In the evening, most of the scouts will be home from foraging, so you’ll get more of the colony when you remove it.
What Do I Do If My Wasps Are In My House?
Sometimes the nest is large or indoors. If your wasps fit this bill, you should contact a professional exterminator or wasp removal specialist. Wasps that have gotten into your walls should only be removed by a specialist (you can find one here).
If you are interested in learning more about the causes for wasps coming into your house, check out this article on Reasons Why You Keep Getting Bees And Wasps In Your House!
You Don’t Have to Put Up with Wasps!
Wasps might be necessary to the ecosystem, but that doesn’t mean they make pleasant neighbors.
There are plenty of ways to control a wasp population so that you can enjoy outside time without worrying about stab-happy insects ruining your day. Following these easy steps to get rid of a wasp nest without being stung will help you get the most use out of your porch, patio, garage, or garden.
Betz, B. J. (1932). The population of a nest of the hornet Vespa maculata. The Quarterly Review of Biology, 7(2), 197-209.
Ross, K. G., & Matthews, R. W. (Eds.). (1991). The social biology of wasps. Cornell University Press.
Jeanne, R. L. (1975). The adaptiveness of social wasp nest architecture. The quarterly review of biology, 50(3), 267-287.