Published on 05/14/09

Knock down wasp nests now

By April Sorrow
University of Georgia

Now is the time to knock down wasp nests around your home before babies hatch and become a problem later this summer, says a University of Georgia entomologist.

“This time of year, the mother wasps are just starting their colonies with a single wasp forming the paper nest and beginning to lay her eggs,” said Nancy Hinkle, an entomologist with UGA Cooperative Extension. “If we wait until the end of May, the nests will have a dozen wasps and many more cells, making them more dangerous to deal with.”

Knock down the nest with a broom while the mother wasp is out foraging, she said. When she returns, she won't find the nest.

“Sometimes she will start over at the same site, but generally she will move elsewhere, which is what we want,” she said.

While wasp stings are painful, the insects are actually beneficial and prey on pest insects. To avoid encounters:

• Keep wasps outside by checking for unsealed vents, torn screens or cracks around window and door frames. Daily sightings inside could mean an inside nest.

• Remove outdoor food sources like pet food, food scraps, open garbage containers or uncovered compost piles. Wasps remember food locations and will continue to search an area for a while after the food is gone.

• Don’t swat or squash wasps. A squashed wasp attracts and incites others, so it is best to walk away.

• Limit perfumes in late summer. Wasps are attracted to the sweet smell.

To keep your birdhouse from becoming a wasp house, line the ceiling with aluminum foil using a staple gun. Another option is to rub the area under the roof with a bar soap like Ivory. One application should last through wasp season.

(April Sorrow is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

April R. Sorrow is a science writer with the University of Georgia Public Affairs Office.