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How to Get Rid of Wasps Safely, Step by Step

Wasp nest attached to roof of house
ArchonCodex / Shutterstock

Wasps don’t often interact with people, but if provoked, they can sting. Wasp stings can be painful to all and threatening to those with allergies. If you’ve got a wasp problem, here is everything you need to know about these pesky insects, including how to get rid of wasps naturally, how to check for infestations, and how to kill wasps with homemade wasp kill.

What do wasps look like?

Wasps are not bees and typically have longer, more slender bodies. They commonly feed on insects such as flies, caterpillars, and spiders, as well as nectar. Wasps have six legs, two wings, two antennae on their head, an exoskeleton, and a body divided into three main parts: the head, thorax, and abdomen.

Up close photo of a wasp

Daniel Prudek / Shutterstock

Unlike a bee, the female wasp can sting repeatedly, as her stinger has small barbs that do not embed into the skin. A female wasp’s stinger is located at the very tip of her lower body and doubles as a reproductive organ through which she lays her eggs. Males wasps, on the other hand, cannot sting.

How do you get wasps?

Three main elements attract wasps to take up residence in your home or yard:

  • Ideal nesting spots, such as eaves, gutters, and soffits that offer protection
  • Sweet, nectar-filled flowers and plant life
  • Food sources, such as garbage bags, pet food bowls, outdoor eating areas with crumbs or sticky spills, or an abundance of insects or spiders

Aside from a painful sting, wasps also pose a deadly risk to anyone allergic to the venom injected. Typically, symptoms of a wasp sting include localized pain, swelling, itching, and mild redness at the sting site.

How to check for wasps

If you notice a large number of wasps flying around your home or yard, you likely have a wasp nest somewhere on your property. To locate a wasp nest, first observe a wasp from afar to see which direction it flies. You can also leave out food (such as pet food or canned tuna) to lure the wasps before following them cautiously back to their nesting place.

Pay close attention to any holes out of which they may be crawling. You may spot their visible nest attached to plants, trees, bushes, underneath windowsills or eaves, or underneath siding or any other overhangs along a building (including your dog’s kennel).

If you’re noticing wasps inside your home, observe them to see where they are entering and exiting your home and where their nest may be located. Check your house for unsealed vents, torn screens, and cracks around windows and door frames for signs that wasps may be gaining easy access into your home.

How long can wasp infestations last?

Wasps establish a new colony each spring and rarely re-use an old nest, so, on average, you can expect a wasp infestation to last no longer than a year. It isn’t unusual for wasp colonies to set up a new nest next to an existing nest, so you should still get rid of wasps and their nest as soon as you spot an infestation.

How to get rid of wasps, step by step

If a colony of wasps has taken up residence in your home or backyard, you’re probably wondering how to get rid of wasps immediately. The following process will help you learn how to kill wasps using homemade wasp kill and how to create a wasp trap DIY to remove them for good.

Step 1: Wear appropriate clothing and safety materials

Before approaching a wasp nest, cover up in long pants, a long-sleeved top, closed-toe shoes, gloves, and glasses or goggles to protect your eyes.

Step 2: Take a powerful vacuum to your carpet, floors, furniture, and mattress if you suspect a wasp infestation indoors

Make sure to use the crevice tool attachment to go over any tight spaces or cracks, as that’s where wasps tend to hide. Use a vacuum with disposable bags that you can discard in an outdoor trash can immediately after use. Vacuuming is also essential for removing food crumbs on which wasps feed.

Step 3: Eradicate the wasp infestation

Use one or more of the following methods to treat a wasp infestation:

  • Nest drenching: Using an insecticide specially formulated for wasps, completely saturate the nest heavily in the solution. Depending on how accessible the nest is, use either hand-held sprays or a spray with a long nozzle. Be wary of wasps flying out of the nest, spraying each as they emerge. When you’re certain the entire colony has been killed, destroy the nest immediately.
  • Nest dusting: This method uses a powder or dust version of wasp insecticide to cover the nest and eventually kill the wasp colony. Nest dusting isn’t as effective as nest drenching but is a safer option, as you simply drop the powder over the nest and walk away. It requires reapplication, however, and could take weeks before the entire colony is killed off.
  • Wasp trap DIY: If you want to avoid using insecticide, formulate your own homemade wasp trap. Using a two-liter soda bottle, cut around the neck of the bottle, just below the taper. Place bait at the bottom of the bottle, including either a protein (such as lunch meat) or something sweet (such as jam or honey). Add a bit of vinegar to the bait to keep bees out of your trap. Finally, unscrew and remove the cap of the bottle, before flipping the top part of the bottle upside down to tuck into the bottom part of the bottle, as shown here.

Products you can use to treat a wasp infestation

Don’t want to use chemicals? Here’s how to get rid of wasps naturally

There are plenty of home remedies to get rid of wasps using all-natural ingredients. One of the easiest chemical-free ways to not only get rid of wasps, but also deter them from returning, is to place strong-smelling herbs such as spearmint, thyme, citronella, and eucalyptus around your backyard, on your patio, or near any windows.

You can also create a wasp-repelling spray using essential oils, with 1 teaspoon clove oil, 1 teaspoon lemongrass oil, 1 teaspoon geranium essential oil, and 6 cups of water. Combine the ingredients in a spray bottle, then spray it thoroughly onto the wasp nest at night when the wasps are less active. Repeat this process until the wasps abandon their nest.

If you’re looking for a natural way to kill the wasps versus just sending them away, create a spray combining 3 tablespoons lemon extract and 1 cup of water. Saturate the nest with the mixture at night or spray it directly onto the wasps while wearing protective clothing.

When to call a professional exterminator to treat wasps

Sometimes, a wasp nest is located in a hard-to-reach place, such as on your roof, in a tall tree, or even within the cavity of your wall or floorboards. If you can’t access the wasp nest or have already tried the DIY options above, it’s best to call a professional exterminator to treat your wasp infestation.

If you or someone you live with is allergic to wasps, you’ll also need a professional to deal with the problem as soon as possible. Do not attempt to go near the wasps if you are allergic to their sting.

How to keep wasps out of your home

Once your wasp infestation has successfully been removed, keep wasps out of your space for good by doing the following:

  • Seal off any exposed entry points, particularly in your roofing, basement, and attic, as well as around window and door frames.
  • Minimize potential food sources by covering your garbage with a lid, frequently cleaning up spills or crumbs, and not leaving food (including pet food) unattended for long periods of time.
  • Avoid using perfumes or heavily scented sprays and candles within your home. These sweet smells attract nectar-loving insects.
  • If you have smaller, roofed objects in your yard (such as dog kennels and birdhouses), cover underneath the exposed part of the roof with aluminum.

The bottom line on wasps

A wasp infestation in your home or yard can pose a danger to you, your family, and your pets ⁠— particularly if anyone is allergic to a wasp’s sting. Therefore, it’s important to control and remove a wasp infestation immediately. You can do this effectively using nest drenching, nest dusting, or a wasp trap DIY. Alternatively, you can use natural and chemical-free alternatives, such as essential oils or certain herbs, to deter or kill the wasps. If a family member is allergic to wasps, or the nest is in a hard-to-reach place, call a professional wasp exterminator.

Frequently asked questions

How do you get wasps in a home?

Wasps are attracted to the sweet aroma of flowers or plants, as well as food sources such as pet food, crumbs, and spills. If your home has an easily accessible entry point, they will access your home in search of a safe space to set up their nest.

Are there natural remedies to get rid of wasps?

Yes. Wasps hate strong-smelling herbs such as spearmint, thyme, citronella, and eucalyptus, as well as essential oils including cloves, lemongrass, geranium, and lemon. Additionally, you can use all-natural sprays, traps, or solutions designed to kill or deter wasps.

What’s the difference between wasps and bees?

Though wasps and bees are both within the Hymenoptera order of insects, bees can only sting once while female wasps can sting multiple times. Honey bees look similar to wasps but have a coating of hair that helps them collect pollen. Both bees and wasps contribute to pollinating flowers, and wasps also help regulate the population of crop pests. They’re both crucial to our ecology and should only be killed if they are a threat to your well-being.