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Wasp Control for Lawns

As the days shorten and we get closer to fall, the extension office receives quite a few calls in regards to wasps. Most wasps are beneficial to your garden and lawn, preying on caterpillars, grasshoppers, or wood boring beetles. While wasps are not as efficient as their hairier bee cousins in pollinating flowers, they do their part to keep your garden thriving without pesticides.

However, ground-nesting yellow jackets (Vespula sp.) often cause the most issues with Minnesota homeowners, including me! I remember one time my mother was digging in a flowerbed that was occupied by a legion of wasps. Unlike honeybees, yellow jackets can sting repeatedly, making several workers quite a painful threat. She ran into the house swatting away as our 200-pound German Shepard Dog—always the guardian of her “pack”—snapped at the swarm.

However, digging up a nest is not the only way to be stung. By wasps scavenging fruit and other garbage, a misplaced step or absentminded swipe can result in a few painful stings by a yellow jacket. Tidying up your lawn and securing your trash with a tight fitting lid are good ways to minimize the risk of a bad encounter on your property. Cleaning up deadfall apples also has the added benefit of reducing next year’s disease and pest pressure for the tree.

Yet, I stress that in many cases control of ground-nesting wasps is unwarranted. While yellow jackets are somewhat more aggressive than your average honeybee, many species’ nests are not perennial and abandoned by next year. However, if you seem to have nests all the time, there is a high chance that your property is “prime real-estate” to a young queen, with plentiful food/prey resources.

I would only advocate control if the nesting areas have heavy foot traffic, or there will be digging nearby. The best method is to use an insecticidal dust labeled for wasps. Apply these in the morning or evening near the entrances, when the workers are dormant. As the wasps move in and out of the nest, these chemicals will gradually kill the colony. As always, please read the label on the pesticide container.

Too often, I have received calls of people channeling their inner chemist trying to remove wasps. Bleach, gasoline, fire, or any combination are not acceptable substitutes for insecticidal dusts. Typically, when I ask how these treatments worked out for the homeowner, the answers did not surprise me. Moreover, there is a chance for nasty chemical reactions that can overpower you or damage property. If you are highly allergic to wasp stings or are uncomfortable, please call a professional pest control company to help you remove the insects.

Works Cited:

Hahn, J., L. Jesse, and P. Liesch. “Wasps”. 2018. University of Minnesota Extension.

Russell, H. “Getting rid of wasps’ nests”. 2017. Michigan State University Extension.