There are many different types of wasps in this region. As much as we may think of them as pests, wasps are very beneficial insects to have in the garden. Many feed on caterpillars, flies and crickets. Some serve as a biological control for infestations of plant and tree-killing insects, such as the Gypsy Moth. The vast majority of wasp species do not sting and are the most important natural enemy of insect pests.

If you discover a nest in your area that is unlikely to be disturbed, it is best to leave it alone and ignore it. Sometimes, however, wasps will decide make a home near doorways or walkways, and steps must be taken to reduce the threat of being stung.

Take proper precaution when dealing with nests

If you have a paper wasp or yellow jacket nest near your home that you want to control, treat the nest during early morning or late evening when the occupants are less active. Be sure to wear protective clothing, tying you sleeves shut and pulling your socks up and over pant cuffs. Never attempt to control a nest if you are allergic to stings.

If you can see the nest, you can treat it with an aerosol spray. These sprays typically reach 20 feet from the ground with pinpoint accuracy. For yellow jacket nests, spray directly into the nest opening. Paper wasp nests should have the spray directed at all of the combs.

Dealing with concealed nests

It is common for yellow jackets to build nests below ground or in cavities in hollow logs. Nests in the ground can be controlled by placing insecticide dust (containing permethrin) in and around the entrance during the night. Sometimes wasps can nest in attics and voids inside the walls.

The most effective treatment for hidden nests is not widely available to the general public. Using an aerosol on a hidden nest may force the insects to come inside, looking for a way to escape. Concealed nests are best handled by calling a pest management professional. When using any kind of pesticide, it is important to remember that a pesticide label is a legal document. Always follow directions according to the container.

Enjoying your outdoor activities without sprays

Late summer and fall outdoor activities can be seriously disrupted by ever-present yellow jackets. No insecticides repel them, but you can direct them away from your area with use of wasp traps. These traps lure them away without the use of hazardous sprays. Or try an electric bug zapper, for the few that just won't leave you alone.

To make sure you enjoy your time outdoors with a minimum of bother, the University of Minnesota extension offers the following tips:

  • Promptly put away food when done and throw garbage into a container with a tight-fitting lid.
  • Examine open mouth cans and containers before drinking to check for yellow jackets that may have flown inside. If one flies into your food, wait for it to fly away.
  • If only a few are bothering you, ignoring them or capturing them with a net and crushing them may be sufficient.
  • Traps may catch many wasps, but in fall not enough are captured to noticeably reduce their activity.