How to prevent stinging pests

Every year, homeowners make substantial investments on improving their yards. Whether it’s a swimming pool, deck, or landscaping, the end goal is to create an enjoyable and relaxing outdoor space – preferably one that is void of stinging insects.

So what can a homeowner do when wasps, yellow jackets, and hornets invade? How can they protect their family, friends, and pets from potentially dangerous stings?

Stinging insect prevention is an important consideration, and one that is often overlooked until it’s too late. The key is to implement a plan of action early in the year, before stinging insects establish nests in unwanted areas around your home and yard. However, once summer has begun, you’ll want to get help from an experienced pest control expert who can identify hot spots, implement safe solutions, and provide year-round monitoring.

Relax pest-free, contact us today.

Where do stinging insects build their nests?

The infographic below will show you where stinging insects commonly build nests, which species are most aggressive, and what you can do to help keep them away from your home.

infographic about where stinging insects build their nests

Top 5 common stinging insects and what you should know about them

  1. Yellow jackets – With a moderate to high sting threat, and an even higher risk of being stung if you’re within a few feet of their nest, yellow jackets will sting multiple times. They are approximately ½-inch long and typically build paper nests in ground cavities such as abandoned small rodent burrows. However, they will also nest in hollow trees, attics, porches, eaves, and sheds. Nests are constructed from tiny bits of wood that are chewed up into a paper-pulp consistency. To help prevent yellow jacket activity around your property, make sure to seal or paint anything made from wood such as siding, sheds, playhouses, patio furniture, fencing, etc. Also, keep grills clean and clean up any spills – yellow jackets are attracted to meats and sugary beverages.
  2. European hornets – Measuring about 1-inch long, European hornets are a low to moderate sting threat. They construct paper nests in protected areas such as hollow trees, attics, porches, and inside wall voids. Nests built in covered areas will have exposed cells. Nests built in unprotected areas will have a papery covering. Queens build new nests every year, so you will not have a colony in the same place as the year prior. Because European hornets are the only wasps that are nocturnal and are attracted to outdoor lighting, turning off lights at night will help to keep them away from your windows and doorways. Also, eliminate easy access to fruits or other sugary foods.
  3. Paper wasps – Fairly small in size (⅝ – ¾-inch long), paper wasps are typically not an aggressive species, unless they are disturbed or their nest is being threatened. They build paper nests that are umbrella-shaped with open, uncovered cells where eggs are laid. You may see nests hanging from the exterior light fixtures, branches of trees and shrubs, porch ceilings, the tops of window and door frames, soffits, eaves, attic rafters, under decks, playhouses, sheds, and other sheltered places. Prevent colonies from growing in size by having the nest safely removed by an expert at the first sign of activity.
  4. Bald-faced hornets – This species of hornet lives in colonies and is fairly aggressive and territorial. They will attack anyone or thing that comes near their nest. These hornets measure about ½ – ⅝-inch long and build large, enclosed paper nests in trees, shrubs, sheds, overhangs, utility poles, and other objects that are at least 3 or more feet off the ground. Their nests can be over 14-inches in diameter and more than 24-inches long, about the size of a basketball. They will not use the same nest year after year. You may notice bald-faced hornets in late summer during the day when they are most active. This is also the time of year when populations peak. Prevent attracting bald-faced hornets by keeping grills clean – they are attracted to meat. Also, ensure anything made from wood such as sheds, patio furniture, and fencing is sealed.
  5. Cicada killer wasps – Measuring 1-1½-inch long, cicada killer wasps are often mistaken for the northern giant hornet, or murder hornet, due to their large size. However, unlike the murder hornet, they rarely sting, unless accidentally squashed or mishandled. Cicada killers are solitary, which means they don’t have a colony to defend the nest. Females will dig a single nest in the ground. However, they may nest communally with several nests located in a small area. Their main goal is to capture cicadas for their larvae to feed on. To prevent ground nesting, try packing down loose soil and letting your lawn grow to a medium height.

Keep a lookout for stinging insect activity. Early detection can help prevent colonies from taking over your yard and reduce the risk of being stung.

When are stinging insects most active?

Although stinging insects are active in early spring and summer, they are most active in late summer and fall, when their food reserves are in short supply. Stinging insects such as yellow jackets and bald-faced hornets begin to seek out alternate food sources, which can interfere with outdoor activities and increase your risk of being stung.

TIP: Stinging insect traps can help deter wasps and hornets from coming after your food by offering an alternative source. Once in the trap, they’ll be unable to fly out.

young adults grilling in the backyard

10 ways to prevent encounters with stinging insects

  1. Seal any cracks or gaps around your home where hornets or wasps could enter. 
  2. Keep food covered, especially when outdoors. 
  3. Avoid wearing strong fragrances. 
  4. Wear shoes that cover your feet.
  5. Repair tears in screens and try to keep doors closed.
  6. Check trees, bushes, and shrubs before trimming or picking fruit.
  7. Seal or paint untreated wood.
  8. Keep grills clean.
  9. Ensure garbage bags are tied or lids fit tight.
  10. Clean up food or beverage spills right away.

Keep stinging insects out of your home

At the end of fall, reproductive female wasps and hornets will seek out shelter to survive cold winters. To prevent overwintering female hornets or wasps from getting inside the wall voids of your home, seal any cracks or gaps in the siding and around windows, pipes, etc.

TIP: If a stinging insect does build a nest in the wall voids of your home, do not seal the hole. Call an expert to either remove or treat the nest. Some stinging insects will attempt to chew their way out, which can cause additional damage to your home.

Enjoy your yard and stay safe from stinging insects, contact Ehrlich today!

Tiffany Tenley

As a Marketing Content Manager, Tiffany has come to love and appreciate the diverse and complex world of pests—good, bad and ugly. Not only does she research and write about them, she admits to having eaten a few crickets on some cheese-laden nachos. When she's not working, Tiffany enjoys spending time with her family, exploring new restaurants, concert-going, reading, writing and traveling.

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