Safe wasp nest removal
Come the melting of the frost, the planting of fresh flowers, and the rejuvenating birdsong of summer, it seems we are annually, painfully reminded where we last left the Bactine. All but forgotten during the winter months, bees, wasps, and hornets make a full fledged comeback through the dawning months of spring and summer. Though inherently beneficial, part of nature’s balance, these airborne critters generally become nuisances when they habituate too closely to human life, and are commonly lumped together into one big category of “bees.” Though their similarities are far-reaching, particularly in that both bee and wasp colonies are governed by queen figures and maintained by worker drones, the differentiation is important in understanding and treating meddlesome infestations. From here on we will relate specifically to wasps, as they are generally underestimated and their colonies pose more of a threat than the average beehive.
Wasps are, as a rule, outnumbered by bees. There are more types, more hives, and more resulting irritations. The wasps, however, are sneakier, wiser pests. They can particularly become noticeable nuisances in the autumn months, when the bee population has waned for the year and comfortable temperatures promote a great deal of outdoor activity. In identifying the wasp, it is important to note that the average specimen is characterized by a slim abdomen, narrow waist, and thin, cylindrical legs. It exudes a smooth-skinned, glossy appearance, and also tends to display mildly coiled antennae. This is all in contrast to the bee, which boasts a much fuller figure and a noticeable coating of hair, or cilia. If question should remain, another distinguishing characteristic of the bee is its flattened rear legs, which serve solely to transport pollen.
It is helpful to think of the bee as the herbivore, dining only on carbohydrates and protein (nectars and pollen, respectively), and the wasp as a carnivore, feeding itself and its young with various insect remains. This preying tendency helps control the population of caterpillars, flies, and crickets, but also indicates than any picnic or barbecue fare risks attracting the wasp’s attention.
As a last note on differentiation between bees and wasps, they tend to construct differing homes. In rather general terms, the bee will build its many-combed hive underground or in a relatively protected cavity. It boasts an inner structure of interlocking combs, surrounded by a protective envelope that keeps them in and us out (which generally benefits both parties, nonetheless). The most common wasp, the paper wasp, in contrast, will form a nest under virtually any horizontal surface. These include, but or not limited to, the eaves of barns, attics, and garages, thick tree limbs, and building overhangs. Coupled with their open-air, single-combed nest design, it should be increasingly evident to the reader that wasps are much more proximal to human affairs, and are thusly more troublesome.
The details of bee and wasp appearances and habits have only been discussed this far to aid in the identification of a worrisome pest. Upon discovering a nest and identifying its inhabitants, one must then choose a case-specific method of rendering it dormant. It is largely common knowledge that, unlike the bumble bee, the wasp retains its stinger and is able to repeatedly attach in defense of itself or its nest. Needless to say, a wasp’s nest must be dealt with swiftly and sensibly. A quality pest control service will assuredly be able to tackle more complicated infestations, though it is often sufficient and cost-effective to first try a homeowner remedy of some sort.
The wasp nest is most easily dealt with during the month of June, when a queen is newly instated and the colony is still rather small. At night, too, the homeowner puts himself less at risk when dealing with wasps. Keep in mind that their flight abilities are minimal when temperatures drop below fifty degrees Fahrenheit, according to the Iowa State University Entomological Society. Come the fall months, a first noticed nest is wisely left alone, as the first good frost will put an end to its activity. As a final general note, never seal a nest until you are positively sure that no living specimens remain, as premature disposal may wreak havoc inside a trash can, and potentially inside a home.
Your basic Home Depot-type store stocks ready-to-use aerosol sprays for the eradication of hornet and wasp nests. A direction common to the various labels instructs the user to spray a generous amount of the specially formulated insecticide into the entrance of the nest in the late evening hours. If living creatures remain the following day, repeat application at three day intervals until no subsequent daytime activity can be seen.
For whatever reason, if you, the homeowner, would prefer not to deal with toxic chemicals, a small, exposed nest may be dealt with “manually.” Come nightfall, you may cover the nest with a large, durable plastic bag and seal it shut. With the nest fully enclosed, cut it from where it hangs and either leave it in the sun (for which a black plastic bag is recommended), or place it in a freezer. All wasps will are guaranteed to die within two days or so. Obviously this procedure involves more up-close-and-personal interaction with the nest, and so it is strongly suggested that this method be employed exclusively for smaller nests. It would not be unwise to wear relatively nonporous clothing and/or gloves while carrying out this treatment.
Other types of wasps dwell belowground, entering and exiting through small holes in the surface of lawn or soil. Pouring soapy water into the hole is likely to be effective, even with simple dish or laundry soaps. Depending on the type of wasp, this may only serve to anger the colony, and so particular chemical treatments may be employed. As a word to the wise, be sure you are dealing with an insecticide cleared for lawn and soil use before beginning treatment. Carbaryl dust or liquid is recommended (the brand name being Sevin), as are chlorpyrifos dust (Dursban), acephate liquid (Orthene), and diazinon liquid. Any of these will surely do the trick.
Concealed wasp nests are the toughest type to deal with, particularly because they lie in awkward spots, often within the exterior of a home. Ceiling joists, attics, and inter-stud spaces are particular hot spots for wasp infestations. Often the nest is unnoticeable, indicated only by a heavily trafficked area and/or the holes through which the wasps come and go. Aerosol treatments are not particularly effective against concealed nests, as they need be administered within the nest. Your best bet is to try an insecticidal dust clearly labeled for home use. Bendiocarb, chlorpyrifos, and slow-acting boring acid are the likely heroes, which may be sent toward the nest in clouds, and applied through an empty dish soap bottle with a plastic nozzle. Since meddling with a concealed nest runs the risk of forcing the wasps into the home, it is suggested that this type be left to the devices of a skilled exterminator.
As a final note, wasp nests detected in the winter and early spring are left over from the previous cycle of critters. These can be disposed of at will, though pose no veritable threat. Note that wasps will not reuse a nest from a previous year, regardless of its condition, though carpet beetles and like-minded critters are drawn to these stomping grounds. If bordering a home, an old nest is worth disposing of.
It is ultimately a personal assessment as to whether a nest or hive of any sort be eradicated. If far enough from human activity, both man and pest are more than likely to leave one another alone. It is important to remember that their purpose is not to irritate, nor is ours. A little respect will go a long way, even when dealing with insects, and so you are encouraged to do your research and choose a plan of attack, if at all, most suited to your needs. Good luck to you, homeowner, and happy, safe trails.