Friday, July 11, 2008

Common Wasps

Apparently the wasps have decided to make a grand appearance this week....I been getting lots of calls on them! Of course, callers (and hopefully readers here) want to know what kind of wasp they have and how to get rid of them. We already know from previous posts that bees and wasps can be differentiated by seeing if the body has hairs (remember, bees have hairs; wasps do not). Another reminder I need to mention is that wasps are beneficial insects when they and their nests are located in an area away from people or animals. When they move to areas that are inhabited, there is a chance that someone could get stung, so they might need to be managed at that point. Otherwise, let them help you take care of your garden pests!

The common wasps I get calls on are as follows......

Social Wasps:

Paper Wasps

These are the "red wasps" that everyone sees cruising around their backyard. Other species of paper wasps are reddish with yellow markings on the abdomen. They construct an open faced paper-like nest that is an umbrella shape and hangs from a single stalk. Nests are often constructed under eaves of houses, on fences, etc. For management, spray the nest in the evening (wasps won't be out foraging for food then) with a wasp spray. Once the wasps are dead, knock down the nest and dispose of it.


Yellowjackets are yellow with black markings. They also construct paper-like nest, but the nest can often be found under ground. Sometimes nests can also be seen above ground hanging from trees, eaves of homes or other areas that provide protection from the elements. The pear-shaped nest is enclosed with a single opening at the bottom which can make management difficult. Most nests die off in the winter after the first hard freeze. If you cannot wait for mother nature to take care of the wasps, try contacting a pest control company for control as these wasps can have large numbers in their nests.

Solitary Wasps:

Cicada Killers

These wasps look a bit like they've been on steroids since they are very large compared to most wasps we see in the backyard. It's a large wasp, about 1- 1 1/2", with yellow and black markings. You may see them going in and out of holes in the ground. If you feel control is necessary, sprinkle holes with insecticidal dust and tamp them shut with your foot (make sure to wear shoes!!).

Mud Daubers

Mud daubers are another easily recognized wasp. These wasps come in a variety of colors, but all have a very thin thread-like waist with a bulbous abdomen on the end. The nest is constructed out of mud and can be found in attics, under eaves or on siding. I spent about an hour a few weeks ago watching mud daubers collect mud from and area of my yard that had been recently watered..yes, I'm a nerd! These wasps are pretty tame and you can usually just scrape the nest off with a putty knife if you feel you need to do something. I always like to crack a nest open to see what the wasps have been collecting from the yard. It's amazing how much they can cram in the nest.

A word for the aware that wasps also differ from bees in that they can sting more than once (bees only sting once since they have a barbed stinger that gets stuck in the skin).

For more information on wasps, please see this publication:

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