How to Identify Wasps
A wasp is defined as a member of a group of insects in the order Hymenoptera, suborder Apocrita. They are distinguished from ants and bees by several physical and behavioral characteristics. A tell-tale indication is a slender, smooth body and legs with relatively few hairs (unlike bees), and wasps are generally a combination of colors including black with markings of yellow, white, or orange. Bees have barbed stingers and can only sting once while wasps can repeatedly sting, as their smooth stingers do not get left behind in their victim.
The most common species found in Washington are yellow jackets, hornets, and paper wasps. All three species live together in their respective colonies, but they also have a few different characteristics that can help you see the difference between them.
While yellow jackets and hornets are known scavengers, feeding off of human scraps, paper wasps do not generally scavenge and are usually docile unless provoked. All three species are most active in the spring and summer, but peak activity is generally in the late summer. Wasps come out predominantly in the middle of the day when the weather is warmest.
Their nests can be in many places, making eradicating them quite the challenge. Yellow jackets will typically conceal their nests in old rodent burrows, the hollows of children’s playground equipment, and other similar tucked away locations. Paper wasps tend to build their nests under the eaves of roofs and occasionally on walls.
Most wasp species keep to nectar, dead animals, other insects, and spiders as their food sources, but this does not place them at the top of the food chain. They are also prey to praying mantes, dragonflies, centipedes, bird, and bats. However, if you were to eradicate wasps altogether, they would lave a massive hole in the natural food chain.
Signs of a Wasp Infestation
Wasps are extremely aggressive under the wrong circumstances, and knowing how to manage them is important to avoiding stings to yourself, your family and friends, and pets alike! Their venom can cause a barrage of symptoms including swelling and pain at the sting site, skin infections, and can even be fatal to those with allergies.
It is not typical for wasps to sting without provocation but that will change in an instant if they feel like their colonies are threatened.
Some signs of a wasp infestation include:
- Visual sightings of wasps flying around or near your home
- Finding nests (old or new)
- Chewed wood (a tell-tale sign of wasps which can also indicate the presence of termites or ants – ask a professional if you are unsure)
- Small holes or tunnels appearing on wood surfaces
If wasps are present around your property, it is important to keep family and pets indoors, warn any neighbors who are close, and do not squish them. Wasps and some bees release an alarm pheromone that warns their fellow wasps about nearby danger. This pheromone may not necessarily attract more wasps, but it will make the wasps nearby more aggressive.
What You Can Do About a Wasp Infestation
There are many DIY solutions that can aid you in controlling a wasp infestation. Here are some recommended methods:
- Soda bottle with apple cider vinegar
- Herbs and essential oils such as a mix of clove, lemongrass, and geranium oil
- A mixture of peppermint and water (1 Tbsp + 4C water)
- Hanging fake nests (order online or make your own out of paper bags)
- Blowing at them or the use of a fan can also be helpful in creating a headwind that wasps will avoid
As the temperatures increase, so will too the presence of wasps and their nests. DIY methods can be fairly effective, but can also aggravate the nest. Professionals are prepared for this; you may not be. Be careful!
If you have tried DIY methods, or dealing with an aggressive nest is simply not something you are comfortable with, call us! Our trained and experienced professionals will know just what to do.