Are wasps keeping you from enjoying your deck, porch, or pool? Does it seem like they’re out to ruin your BBQ or picnic every weekend? It’s time to learn how to keep wasps out of your home and away from your outdoor spaces.
Seeing a Lot of Wasps in Your Home?
Seeing a random wasp in your home now and then isn’t uncommon. Sometimes they hitch a ride indoors on unsuspecting humans or fly through open doors when you’re bringing in the groceries. Other times, wasps can get into your home through small gaps in your window screens or open chimney flues.
Finding wasps indoors regularly is a sign you need to inspect your home’s exterior. Examine the exhaust fan vents on your roof for signs wasps are nesting in them. Make sure any skylight seals are intact. Look for gaps around windows and doors or where pipes enter. Caulk any gaps or cracks in your home’s siding. Wasps can enter through a hole as small around as a pencil, so look closely.
How to Stop Wasps from Building Nests
Early spring (April) is wasp-nesting time. That’s when the queen wakes up from winter and starts putting together a nest so she can lay her eggs. During this period, walking around your home’s exterior every few days gives you a chance to notice signs of nests before they get well-established.
When it’s just the queen and a few workers at the beginning of nesting season, it’s not too difficult to get rid of a wasp nest with a spray of soapy water at dusk when they’re least active. Later, once the colony is established, they’ll defend it vigorously and often as a swarm.
Where Else to Look
Wasps can nest anywhere, but outdoors they prefer high locations that aren’t likely to be disturbed. Some of their favorite nesting spots include eaves and overhangs like raised decks and second-floor windowsills. But they don’t just build their homes attached to yours: wasps will also nest in tree branches or even in hollow, low-lying spots yards that don’t see much activity.
Ways to Keep Them from Nesting
Decoys. Since wasps are territorial, hanging a fake nest is a great way to keep them away from your home. Some people have had success hanging crumpled paper bags from their eaves. Others prefer to buy fake nests made from glass other materials. Either way, since they look a bit like a nest, they discourage other wasps from building nearby. (I use these fake bamboo and cotton nests*.)
WD-40. Although it’s not a natural solution, the common household lubricant spray known as WD-40 does a great job of repelling wasps due to its odor. Attach the long nozzle that comes with a fresh can and spray your home’s eaves and overhangs. Repeat this a few times throughout the season to keep your home free of nests.
Keep Wasps Away from Your Pool
Wasps are attracted to pools for the same reasons we are: they want to stay cool on hot summer days. Brightly colored toys and bathing suits, and sweet summer treats like ice cream and popsicles, can also draw them to your pool area. If you don’t want to give up pool time or keep your pool covered year-round, there are other steps you can take to keep wasps away from it.
Grow Plants that Repel Wasps
Avoid fragrant and brightly colored flowers near your pool and other outdoor spaces. Instead, plant lemongrass, citronella, and eucalyptus to repel wasps as well as mosquitoes. Depending on your gardening zone, these plants may be perennial, so you’d only have to plant them once to keep repelling them for years.
Use Bait and Traps
To make a wasp trap, add 4 ounces of warm water, 2 tablespoons of sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon of liquid dish soap to a long-necked 16-20 ounce bottle. Gently swirl the mixture together, then set it in a calm, still area away from your pool. The sugar water draws them into the bottle but the soap traps and suffocates them. Don’t get stung throwing it away, though: be sure all of the wasps are dead first, and discard the bottle in a tightly sealed plastic bag.
Keep Wasps Away from Your BBQ or Picnic
Using the bait and trap method works to keep wasps away from your BBQ or picnic, too. For added protection, combine it with these additional methods.
Wasps love protein, and raw meat is one of their favorite foods. You can use this to your advantage by hanging a chicken leg or strip of raw steak from a tree branch away from your BBQ or picnic area. Or make a liquid trap using the method above, but put it in a large-mouthed jar with a chunk of raw meat sticking above the waterline. The swarming wasps will knock each other into the water, where the soap will put an end to them.
Cover Food Sources
Use net or mesh lids to cover serving trays and bowls at your cookout or picnic. Cover your beverages, too: open cans are notorious for attracting wasps and bees. Be sure you also keep a tight lid on trash, recycling, and compost containers. And don’t keep trash or recycling bins near your seating areas.
Easy Wasp Control Spray
For a quick way to eliminate one or two random wasps, keep a spray bottle of soapy water on hand or in your picnic gear. Wasps breathe through pores on their body known as spiracles. Spraying them with soapy water clogs the spiracles and suffocates them. Hairspray is another way to neutralize a stray wasp quickly. It won’t actually destroy them, but the spray’s stickiness will force it to land and keep it from flying away, then you can safely smash it.
Essential Oils that Repel Wasps
Just as wasps avoid certain plants, there are essential oils that repel them, too. In fact, a scientific study indicates the combination of clove, geranium, lemongrass, and rosemary completely deters them. (Do not use any of these oils or the spray below if you have pets or allergies.)