Wasps—What They Are & How to Get Them Out of Your Garden!

By on August 21, 2013

This colored Glass Wasp Trap with Lure is so pretty you don't need to hide it. We fell for it on sight this spring. PIT910

“Social wasps” sound like party crashers, don’t they? The partying gang includes hornets and the paper wasps, along with yellowjackets.

Did you know that a yellowjacket is actually a yellowjacket wasp? Some people in Nevada County call them “meat bees”. All of us call them “unwelcome” when we’re eating outdoors.

You need some kind of bouncer to keep these social wasps away from your garden and outdoor parties. Tricia shows you How to Get Rid of Wasps in our latest video.

Instead of picking up a can of conventional pesticide (which could kill bees and other pollinators), try the organic gardener’s method of Integrated Pest Management. Look at the social structure and life patterns of the social wasps and see if you can disrupt a process here or there, to make them think your garden is not a paradise for wasps, after all.

What’s so social about social wasps?

They live in groups, but only during warm weather. Most of the wasps die when the fall temperatures drop. Some females over-winter and become queens of new nests in early spring. As the larvae grow in the new nest, workers are out procuring protein by devouring pest worms and other insects—so they can actually be helping organic gardeners at that time. The end of summer is when the worlds of wasps and humans really collide, as the wasps turn scavenger and take a keen interest in human picnic food.

Yellowjackets are the primary wasps in California and paper wasps are more common outside California.

Make it hard for wasps to move in with you for the summer

waspinator Nobody wants a difficult neighbor, including wasps. If they see a wasp nest in place they will move on and look for another location. Fool them by hanging this Waspinator, that looks like a wasp nest.

Note that mud wasps aren’t considered social wasps. They rarely sting and don’t defend their nests. If they have daubed themselves a dwelling under your eaves you can easily remove it in the winter.

How to evict wasps

why sprayIn the spring, keep a lookout for new wasp or yellowjacket nests. If the nest looks small you can try a natural spray like W-H-Y Spray (that’s W-H-Y for wasp, hornet, and yellowjacket—not, Why are those wasps here?). Apply the W-H-Y spray directly on the nest where it will coat, penetrate, and destroy the nest itself. W-H-Y spray is exempt from EPA registration and formulated with lemongrass oil, clove oil, rosemary oil and geranium oil.

The concentrated blast of natural plant oils also overwhelms the insects’ senses, rendering them helpless instantly and dead within seconds. It’s labeled for paper wasp nests, bald-faced hornet, European hornet or aerial yellowjacket nests, and underground yellowjacket nests.

If you missed the early stage of spring nests, by late summer you might have a large nest, above ground or underground. If that’s true, you should consult a professional exterminator. The last thing you want is a group of defensive wasps or yellowjackets angrily flying around your yard. UC Davis says an underground yellowjacket nest can house well over 1,500 insects.

Keep your garden from being a party site for social wasps

wasp lure

If the wasps are already established in your summer garden, you can divert them with an invitation to another party.

Hang some lures or traps in places between their nests and the spots where you (and all your enticing food) are relaxing outdoors. The prettiest lure of all is the Glass Wasp Trap with Lure at the top of this article. Another that is more utilitarian in appearance is the W-H-Y Trap.

For yellowjackets you can also use the Sagebrush Metal Fly Trap.

It’s your garden and you don’t have to let the wasps share it with you.

  Comments (14)


I like the article on wasp management BUT, instead of continuing to explain how they can be beneficial, you go on to how to destroy them. Typical and shortsighted…

Posted by Evelyn on Aug. 23, 2013 at 11:46:31 AM


Thank you for the positive article.  I have at least 5 paper wasp nests in my green house and many more in shelters for my raspberries. I have had 0 insect damage in my green house and much reduced maggots in my fruit this year.
I talk to them and we get along well. I have only been stung when disturbing a nest that I was not aware of and then only once each time. Also the paper wasps have kept the more troublesome yelowjackets out of there territory.
Thank you
Qberry Farm

Posted by Hans Quistorff on Aug. 26, 2013 at 9:33:02 AM

Evelyn, Yes, wasps can be beneficial insects, but they are stinging insects that can sting multiple times, harming people and pets http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7449.html Also, some humans are dangerously sensitive to any stings. We agree that we should try to live in harmony with other species, and these suggestions are for cases where coexistence does not seem possible.

Posted by GrowOrganic.com on Aug. 30, 2013 at 2:14:57 PM

Hans, Paper wasps are not as aggressive as yellowjackets and hornets. What good news to hear how well you all get along in your garden!

Posted by GrowOrganic.com on Aug. 30, 2013 at 2:16:09 PM


My problem is strictly with yellow jackets, of which I have a bit of a phobia from a bad childhood experience, and which I think I may be allergic to. I live in coastal NW Alaska where we typically don’t have a problem with yellow jackets, but yet another result of the dramatic climate in the Bering Strait region has been a bizarrely early and hot spring - and yellow jackets! I have a 20’ diameter dome greenhouse, and every day have five or more yellow jackets getting in but not out. I need to leave the door open for adequate ventilation, but will consider hanging mosquito netting in an effort to make it harder to enter, although the auto vents will still open. So far I’ve been knocking them down with a jet stream from a hose, and then squashing them before they become active again - if I can find them - but would simply prefer to keep them out altogether. Are there any other ideas for discouraging them from even entering the greenhouse? Again, these are strictly yellow jackets - not the more benign paper wasps. Thanks for your ideas!

Posted by Sue on Jun. 01, 2016 at 12:59:56 PM


Just wondering if this formula might work on carpenter bees in the south?

Posted by Deborah on Jun. 24, 2016 at 5:19:48 PM


We pretty much live and let live, just knock down unwanted nests at night generally after soaking them with water.  We are just about the only folks in our area who don’t spray and we are also the only ones with little or no webworms each year.  Webworms were especially bad a few years ago, so whenever I saw a nest, I’d go out with a pole and knock holes in it - the WHY friends made short work of them.

Posted by Leslie on Jun. 24, 2016 at 7:48:35 PM


I didn’t mind the yellow jackets much last year, because I saw several of them actually flying away with some caterpillars I had in my garden that were munching on my fruit trees!  I thought it was pretty cool!  That was until they attacked my beehive!  They actually would wait around the watering hole which was near the beehive, and attack the honeybees!  That’s when I decided that I just hated the yellow jackets, because I love my honeybees.  Then we met this guy who actually digs up the yellow jacket nests to collect the wasps, then sells them to pharmaceutical companies, who then make anti-venom from the wasps!  Cool!

Posted by Vickie on Jun. 24, 2016 at 8:39:06 PM


How do these traps affect honeybees?  Are honeybees drawn into them as well?

Posted by S on Jun. 24, 2016 at 8:56:22 PM


Having been stung numerous times as a child and having my hand swell to twice it’s normal size, Yellowjacket wasps are not my friends.  That said, I won’t go out of my way to find and kill them but if they come into my territory I will use a trap.  They don’t like me in their territory so I have no qualms about keeping them out of mine.  One of the worst things about the yellowjackets is they bite as well as sting.  I live in harmony with all the other wasps and bumble bees, even thinking of getting some honey bees even though I was stung last fall by one.  I learned not to blow on them….

Posted by Marilyn Kaplan on Jun. 24, 2016 at 9:35:48 PM


the only difficulty i have had with paper wasps is keeping my neighbor from coming onto my property to destroy their nest.

Posted by cindy on Jun. 26, 2016 at 2:36:40 AM


The W-H-Y spray really works, I’ve been using it successfully for about 10 years! Not harmful to people, animals or soil. An important tip: wait until dusk to spray the nest—guaranteeing that the inhabitants will be inside and not off somewhere with no home to return to, upsetting them…

However, do NOT try to eradicate yellow jackets on your own—they broadcast a message to their tribe to come and gang up on you! (I know, I experienced it firsthand!) Best to put out attractant traps for them early in the spring to try and prevent nests first!

Some regions don’t have to deal with as many insects as others, so they don’t get why we have to use some forms of control in order to share the outdoors! grin

Posted by CS on Jun. 26, 2016 at 5:11:56 PM


S, the traps have lures that are specific to wasps, I don’t think honeybees would be attracted to it.

Posted by Suzanne on Jul. 01, 2016 at 3:48:40 PM


Deborah, I don’t think that carpenter bees would be attracted to the lure.

Posted by Suzanne on Jul. 01, 2016 at 3:51:50 PM

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