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Everything About Wasps and How to Humanely Eliminate them From your Home or Business

How do you get rid of wasps?


The best way to prevent a wasp colony from terrorizing your home and yard is to be vigilant early in the season. A nest that has a few dozen workers is far easier to eliminate than a thriving nest with thousands of individuals late in the season when wasps become more aggressive to protect their future queen. Inspecting common nesting areas – such as a roof overhang, a tool shed roof, sheltered areas on a deck or patio, hydro boxes – and ensuring that all potential entry points are sealed is a good first step to preventing wasps form establishing a nest.

If you discover a nest that is well established and causing significant nuisance or financial loss to your home or business we advise you to take extreme precautionary methods while removing the nest or contact a pest control professional to remove the nest and implement a physical and chemical pest control program if necessary.


How to identify wasps

Wasp species vary considerably, as there are over 100,000 described species. All wasps have two sets of wings, a narrow waist petiole and two large compound eyes with several smaller simple eyes. Since wasps are scavengers, they are equipped with strong and well-developed mandibles and chewing mouthparts for burrowing into fruit and meat and preying on other insects. Unlike bees, wasps have a slick, shiny abdomen rather than a dense covering of coarse hairs. Wasps can vary in colour and patterning, some dark brown and others with the recognizable yellow, black and white patterning

Identifying a wasp nest in an area that could present significant nuisance, endanger human health, or cause major financial loss is an important step in monitoring wasps activity. Wasps construct their nest by mixing chewed fibrous material such as paper, cardboard or wood with their adhesive saliva. Wasps queens will seek an enclosed, protected area to begin their nest construction. Wasp nests are common in tree stumps, on the underside of tree or bush branches, a gap in brickwork, inside of a space in roof soffits or on the underside of eaves.



The life-cycle of social wasp species is very similar to that of bees, with the notable difference that it is very rare for a wasp colony to last more than one season. In mid to late spring when temperatures are favourable the queen will emerge out of hibernative diapause and begin to search for an appropriate nesting location. The queen has an abundance of sperm cells stored from the previous fall in a special storage gland called a spermatheca. Once she locates an appropriate nesting site, the queen will construct the initial brood cells and lay the first batch of eggs. The queen can determine the sex of her offspring by choosing to fertilize individual eggs or not. Fertilized diploid eggs develop into infertile female worker wasps, whereas unfertilized haploid eggs develop into male drone wasps. The first brood of 20-30 wasp offspring are all fertilized female worker wasps that hatch and develop in 20-30 days. Once hatched the workers take over the nest building activities and the fertile queen is confined inside the nest for the remainder of the season laying eggs. Female workers will carry out a variety of tasks to maintain the colony including feeding the larvae as well as cleaning and defending the nest. Late in the season a virgin queen will depart from the nest, and begin mating in a drone congregation site. She will then find a sheltered location to hibernate until re-merging the following spring and beginning the nesting process from scratch.


What’s the difference between wasps and bees?

Wasps are commonly mistaken as honey bees. Although they have similar colouring, and females of both species are capable of stinging there are important differences in the life-cycle, behaviour, benefits and dangers of each species.

The major anatomical difference between these species is the dense hair covering on most bee species that wasps lack. Both species tend to have patterned black, white and yellow bodies, the body of a wasp is shimmering and slick. These hairs are important for bees role as pollinators. Bees feed on pollen and nectar from flowering plants and perform the crucial biological task of cross pollinating to facilitate fertilization of plant life. Wasps are scavengers, although the fertilized queen wasp will feed on plant nectar for energy as she is initially establishing her nest. Adult wasps will forage for protein and carbohydrate-rich foods, such as meat, fish, cheese, bread, fruit, and any sugary substance. Because of their preference for protein rich foods, many wasps will prey on other insect species, sometimes laying their eggs inside prey that they have killed to provide ample food for their hatched larvae. Wasps have been introduced in various agricultural applications to control other insects that threaten the crop or harvest. While many bee colonies will survive moderate winter cold by huddling large numbers of workers to generate heat inside of a hive most wasp nests are constructed in late spring and abandoned with the onset of colder weather in mid to late fall. Bees nests are made of wax produced by worker bees, wasps nests are constructed from chewed up wood-fibre, paper, leaf and other natural substances mixed with the wasp’s adhesive saliva. Both bees and wasps will defend the nest in large numbers if they feel an intruder is threatening the colony. Wasps typically display more aggressive behaviour than bees, particularly late in the season when the virgin queen is looking for drone male wasps as mating partners. Most bees can only sting once as their barbed stinger remains in their victim tearing out part of the bee’s abdomen. On the other hand, wasps, have a lance-like stinger and are capable of retracting their stinger and repeatedly stinging, making the risk of multiple stings greater for anyone approaching a wasp’s nest. Anyone approaching the nest of either a bee or wasp colony should practice extreme caution and wear all proper protective equipment.


Signs of a wasp infestation

Wasps are a normal and beneficial part of the urban ecosystem. It is normal to see wasps around the home and garden especially where ample attractive feeding sources are available, such as a picnic, barbeque, sporting event, etc.

If you begin to see intensified wasp activity in your home or around your garden, it could mean that wasps are acting aggressively to defend a nearby nest. If wasps have formed a nest in a wall void, or chimney it is important to take action against this nest to prevent your home or business from becoming overrun with these stinging insects.

Addison offers a thorough inspection service for wasps which involves a 360° inspection of your home, crawl spaces, attics, garages, tool sheds and decks. By identifying carcases and live insects and locating the nest we work together with you to establish an effective, safe and environmentally sound pest control strategy.


How did wasps get into my home?

Many species of wasps are solitary breeders that establish a single nest for a single brood and pose little or no threat to humans. Common North American species such as the yellowjacket and paper wasp, however, establish elaborate hive colonies with a fertile queen wasp, many non-reproductive female worker wasps, and male drone wasps that all fulfil different aspects of sustaining life and advancing the colony. Solitary and social waps alike are most likely to establish breeding zones far away from homes and humans, but it is not uncommon for a wasp population to establish itself in the overhang of a garage, the soffits of a roof, in an unprotected wall void, or underneath a deck or porch.

In mid to late spring the fertilized queen wasp emerges from hibernation and seeks out a sheltered, contained and quiet environment to establish the nest. If she gains access to the home through insecure flashing or soffits, or even through an open window, you are at risk of having an active wasp colony in your home


What do wasps eat?

Wasps are a scavenger species that are attracted to sugary and protein-rich foods such as meat, fish, cheese, bread and fruit. Because of their preference for protein rich foods, many wasps will prey on other insect species, sometimes laying their eggs inside prey that they have killed to provide ample food for their hatched larvae. Wasps have been introduced in various agricultural applications to control other insects that threaten the crop or harvest.

It is common to see wasps around garbage cans, dumpsters, outdoor meat fish and fruit stands and outdoor food events like picnics or barbeques.


How serious are wasps?

Wasps will generally take up residence at a distance from human activity, and should only be controlled if they pose a risk to human health or cause significant financial loss. The best strategy to prevent wasps from establishing a colony close to or inside of a home is to ensure that all potential nesting sites are well secured and frequently monitored. Inspecting the yard, the eaves and wall cavities early in the active season can make the removal of a small nest very easy. Eliminating a young nest can be very quick and easy requiring little or no protective equipment, whereas an established nest with hundreds or thousands of wasps can be difficult and highly hazardous to remove. The last offspring of the season is usually made up entirely of male wasps which will fertilize next year’s queen, and the colony will become very protective both of the virgin queen and the male drone wasps.

Eliminating feeding sources is a good way to make sure that wasps aren’t attracted to areas where humans are active. Avoiding leaving high protein or sweet foods exposed during outdoor activities can ensure that a picnic or barbeque doesn’t become plagued by swarming aggressive wasps. When a single wasp becomes threatened it will release a distress pheromone which will attract related wasps to come to its aid. Preventing and deterring the first wasps from arriving is more effective than swatting at wasps once they’ve arrived.

Many people have a severe anaphylactic reaction to wasp venom which can be life threatening if they do not receive emergency medical attention. If an individual in your home is severely allergic to wasp stings, it is important to be extra vigilant within you home and around your yard for the establishment of wasp colonies. If wasps establish a nest close to or inside or close to your home you may choose to take action against the wasp population, particularly if there is someone in the home who is sensitive or allergic to wasp stings and venom.


How Addison can help eliminate a wasp infestation


Nest removal

Removing a well established active wasp nest can be done at home if the proper precautions are taken. However, because wasps can swarm a potential intruder in the hundreds or thousands and are capable of stinging multiple times, it is highly advisable to call a professional pest control technician with the proper training and protective equipment to remove a nest from your property.

Protective clothing is essential to ensuring that wasps cannot penetrate sting you during removal. All exposed skin should be covered by thick, impenetrable fabric. High boots, thick working pants, a thick work shirt and long gloves are all essential when removing a nest. Head nets are commercially available and can prevent wasps from accessing the face and neck areas.

Never use a ladder to access a wasps nest in an elevated location. If swarmed falling from the ladder and causing serious bodily injury is a very likely outcome.

 Smoke from a controlled fire can be a good way to suffocate wasps out of their nest without having to approach the nest. If you are able to light a fire beneath a nest, the smoke will cause the inhabitants of the nest to evacuate. After maintaining this smoke treatment for up to 3 hours, it is safe to knock the nest down with a stick, wrap in a plastic or cloth bag and dispose of it in the regular garbage.

If the nest must be removed manually, it is important to attempt it in the evening when wasps are less active. Approach the nest with a cloth or plastic bag that has no holes and is big enough to fit and completely seal the nest. Place the bag over the nest, and use your hands to detach the nest from its supporting structure, completely sealing the bag with a string or a knot.

After this either place the bag in the freezer for 48 hours or in a bucket of water with a weight to keep the nest bag submerged overnight to ensure that no wasp survives. After this time it is safe to dispose of the nest in the regular garbage.


Chemical Control

Because of the risks associated with nest removal, and because it is often difficult to access or locate a nest that is located inside of a wall void or in an elevated eaves trough, chemical control can be the most effective way to eliminate a wasp infestation from your home.

It is important to engage a licensed pest control company to carry out chemical control since store-bought insecticides can be toxic, ineffective and environmentally damaging.

At Addison, we combine chemical and physical control methods to ensure that a wasp infestation is eliminated quickly and safely with the minimum impact on the environment. We use a combination of non-toxic residual pyrethroid spray and a crack and crevice treatment to ensure any wasps in wall voids or soffits will not be able to survive.

Give us a call for a full explanation of our treatment process and no-obligation transparent quote.


How Addison can help prevent wasp infestations in the future

Part of our service includes identifying and sealing potential entry routes in your home. We use spray foam and steel wool for small cracks where bees might have gained access to a wall void, and we can refer you to roofing or contracting companies for more significant structural issues that could pose the risk of further infestations in the future.


Additional Information

The term wasp refers to a variety of species encompassing any member of the order of Hymenoptera that does not fall into the bee or ant species. The commonly known stinging wasp that can become a nuisance especially late in the summer season are the wasps that make up the family Vespidae. Vespids are social wasps that form annual colonies with a single fertile queen and infertile worker wasps that can number up to 10,000.

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