Return to Home Pest Control Article List

Common Insect Pests - Wasps

Provided courtesy Triton Pest Control

Typically wasps are a beneficial insect because they feed on other insects. Unfortunately for wasps, they have a habit of building nests in areas where we do not want them. Ask anyone who has been stung by a wasp. Hornets, however, usually build their nests high in trees, but occasionally invade our space.


Some species are solitary and do not form colony groups. Other wasps are called social wasps and live in colonies with a queen, sterile female workers and drones (males). Social wasps include, yellow jackets, hornets and paper wasps. If you are going to be stung, these are the ones to look out for. Stinging is a defensive action and occurs when a colony or individual feels threatened.

A queen who survives the winter (over winter) and emerges in the spring will begin a new colony. She will lay about 10-20 eggs, each being placed in a cell in her nest. Theses cells are similar to what you would find in a bee hive. She will search for food and water until the first sterile females of her new nest emerge. These sterile females will then take over the task of building the nest and taking care of the brood. The queen's primary responsibility is egg laying.

By summers end the typical nest may have several combs along with thousands of cells and workers. During the late summer and early fall fertile females and males are produced. The new queens will over winter, while the males die off after mating.

The brown of giant hornet (European hornet) is the only true hornet found in North America. Approximately 1© inches in length, it has a brown body marked with orange. Hornets typically build their nests in the hollows of trees and logs, but will enter eaves, vents and openings in the sides of structures.

The paper wasp (umbrella wasp), suspends its nests from the eaves of houses, the underside of decks, porch roofs and other well protected surfaces.

The yellow jacket, this writers least favorite of the wasp family, usually builds its nest underground in old mouse and rodent burrows or openings in buildings that are well protected. The yellow jacket nest may contain upwards of 3,000 in population. Yellow jackets are © inch in length and have yellow markings on their heads and yellow bands around the abdomen and thorax. Yellow jackets are considered to be the most aggressive members of the wasp family.

BEHAVIOR of Wasps and Hornets

Wasps feed their young on animal protein which includes other insects and spiders. They scavenge for food and love family cookouts and picnic settings. They love hamburger and other meats we humans enjoy. The adults will also feed on sodas, beer and fruit juices. Yes, wasps have a sweet tooth, more or less.

You are more likely to be stung by yellow jackets in August and September, which is toward the end of their life cycle. Just remember that social wasps are very protective of their nests and will defend it against any potential invader.


Stay away! Seriously, wasps inject a venom and protein material when they sting. Unlike bees they are capable of multiple stings. Most people will have pain and swelling at the sight of the sting, but some people my have severe allergic reactions requiring emergency medical treatment. Wasps stings account for approximately 40 deaths in the US annually.

If you plan to take wasps on by yourself the best time to attack the nest is a night. Most of the colony will be in the nest and they are typically less aggressive. Locate the nest during day light hours and avoid using light to located the nest at night. Guards at the entrance may be attracted to the light and attack. Where protective clothing, including a long sleeve shirt and leather work type gloves warn in side the sleeve, trousers that are bloused inside your socks and a bee bonnet isn't a bad idea either. And don't forget to wear protective eye wear. Make sure others are kept away from the area and move slowly. If you panic, you may cause the nest to panic as well. If you have to flee, run in a straight line as fast as you can. DO NOT ZIG ZAG! Zig zagging only makes it easier for you pursuer to catch up to you.

There are a variety of "Wasp Freeze" products available that you may purchase. Follow the label directions for use and personal safety. Be sure to read the label. Some products may damage painted surfaces and siding.

About the author:  Triton Pest Control offers pest control services to their local Pennsylvania customers, as well as online sales of Vector Fly Systems, rodent traps, and more at their website

Return to Natural Handyman's Pest Control Page