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You are here: Home > Resources > How To's > Birding and Nature > Best Control for Bees, Yellow Jackets, Hornets and Wasps



WASPS ... Bee-ware!
Bee Picture

Source: http://www.lib.uiowa.edu/hardin/md/insectpictures.html


The insects considered most beneficial to humans are found in the large insect order Hymenoptera. About one-third of the human diet is derived in some way from bee pollinated crops. Honey has antibacterial properties. Not only are the bees and many of their relatives pollinators of flowering plants, including fruits and vegetables, but thousands of species of small wasps are parasites of other arthropods including pest insects and bee venom has longeen known to soothe arthritis. Without these parasites that limit the growth of insect populations, pests would overtake most of our crops.

Volatile, synthetic pesticide poisons are not species specific. They kill everything, including all the beneficial insects - and maybe you, your family and pets.

Sanitation is the real key. The urban pests of the order Hymenoptera are the stinging insects. Although the first image to come to mind implies danger to humans, these yellow jackets, hornets, and wasps sometimes serve our interest: they feed their young largely on flies, spiders and/or caterpillars. But, in 1990, 32,662 small animals in the U. S. required a trip to the vet after being stung by bees or wasps. In 1988, the Federal Center for Disease Control in Atlanta reported 34 human fatalities due to known wasp or bee stings. About 500,000 U. S. citizens enter the emergency room every year because of allergic reactions to venomous insect stings. The majority of stinging victims suffer normal reactions to the venom, such as pain and swelling. A smaller number of people will be hypersensitive to the venom and can suffer a fatal anaphylactic shock reaction.

Many of these stinging insects are social. They live in colonies with a caste system or a division of labor and overlapping generations - all offspring of one individual reproductive. Some of these colonies persist: for many years (ants, honey bees) and others, like stinging wasps, start anew each year.

In parts of the United States, particularly in the eastern states, yellowjackets, wasps, hornets and bees are all called bees by the general public. Of course the general public is principally focused on one attribute these insects have in common - their stingers. If stung, try a little hydrated bentonite clay or some fresh squeezed onion juice or a meat tenderizer paste and/or see
The Blood Feeders Overview.
Knowledge of the behavior of these pests is essential to their management; effective communication with frightened or, at best, fearful occupants is an important skill you must develop. Nests of stinging pests are usually the target for control. Understanding nesting and the make-up of the colony is essential to be effective.
Yellow jackets, hornets and paper wasps are all in the same insect family, Vespidae. The common paper wasp with its umbrella shaped nest or single comb best demonstrates the basic building pattern of a colony.

- Bees, hornets, yellowjackets and wasps are for the most part a very beneficial group of insects,being the major pollinators of flowering plants, including all of our fruit and vegetables, and they are also predators of many insect pest species, etc. However, each year in the U. S. people are killed by stinging insects. There is an old German proverb, God made the bee but the Devil made the wasp.
Bees, yellowjackets, hornets and wasps can be described as either solitary or social.
Solitary species live independently of each other. Social species live together in colonies or nests that have a caste system or an adult division of labor composed of workers, queen(s) and (periodically) males.
The most common solitary groups include the carpenter bees, cicada killers, digger wasps, mud daubers, potter and mason wasps, spider wasps and velvet ants. The most common social groups include the bumble bees, honey bees, hornets, paper and umbrella wasps and yellowjackets.
- It is necessary to know which specific group of bees, yellowjackets, hornets or wasps you are encountering. Recognition of whether they are solitary or social, and their particular nesting habits is essential to correctly determine the potential harm or danger they may cause you and the occupants of the area.

Bees - Five Sting Pests
Initial Intelligent Pest Management
Control Notes
- Try to avoid being stung and keep all garbage cleaned up and tightly covered. Avoid indiscriminate killing of even wasps, hornets and yellowjackets - they are beneficial pollinators and predators on pest insects. If picnicking, keep food properly covered and sealed. Avoid areas where yellowjackets are prevalent. Keep overripe fruit and vegetables cleaned up and stored away from human activity. You should caulk all cracks and crevices during the winter or early spring to prevent stinging insects from gaining access to the building, but never caulk the opening of an active nest - it will force them indoors!


1. Do not cook or eat or drink outdoors during yellowjacket season.

2. Do not wear light blue, yellow, and/or brightly colored and patterned clothes or bright (flashy) jewelry.

3. Do not wear scented talcs, perfumes, colognes and other scents, including scented hair spray, suntan lotion, sunscreen, cosmetics, deodorants and shaving lotions.

4. Do not sit down on or handle wet towels, washcloths or clothes without first checking to make sure no yellow jackets are drinking the moisture.

5. Do not carry sugary or meat snacks in open containers.

6. Do not drink soft drinks from open containers. Use a glass or a lid and/or a straw.

7. Do not hit or swat at bees or yellowjackets. Squashing a yellowjacket can release a chemical pheromone (alarm) that signals other wasps and yellowjackets in the area to come attack you.  Yellowjackets will not usually sting or bite a person at rest, if they or their nest have not been disturbed or threatened by a persons swatting or by the quick movement of their arms or legs. They may land on your skin to inspect a smell or even to get water if you are sweating heavily, but they will leave of their own accord if you stay calm and do not move quickly. If you lack the patience, you can brush them off gently with a piece of paper as long as you move slowly and deliberately.

8. Do not walk directly into the flight paths of these stinging insects.

9. Do not go barefoot, especially through vegetation.

10. Do not shine a flashlight or cast a shadow on the nest at night.

11. If a bee or wasp enters your moving car, pull off to the side of the road and stop, if possible; open the windows and safely let it fly out and leave by itself.

12. Wear proper safety protection, not only during treatment/control but also during inspections.

13. Wear gloves when picking up rocks, timbers and firewood. Use a rake to move debris and mulch.

14. Dont vibrate, hit, move, touch or make any unnecessary movements around the nest.

15. Activities, e.g., running, screaming, and flailing only agitates wasps and bees.
16. Final Note: If you have any sensitivity to insect stings, you should never attempt any control activity. Bee-Careful!

General Control Notes
- Since bees, yellowjackets, hornets and wasps are all considered to be beneficial insects, control should only be done where there is an imminent threat to people or their pets. These insects can (when provoked) inflict a painful, venomous sting and/or bite. Some people are so sensitive to the venoms complex amino acids, proteins and enzymes they develop severe allergic reactions known as anaphylaxis and may even die without an injection of an antidote.

Remove or cover all garbage, dropped fruit, soft drinks, pet food and other protein and sugar food sources. Routinely clean all dumpsters, garbage cans and spills, then spray with diluted Safe Solutions, Inc. Enzyme Cleaner with Peppermint* and/or borax. If you spray stinging insects with diluted Safe Solutions, Inc. enzyme cleaners with peppermint (1 oz. per qt. water), they generally die within 6 - 35 seconds, or simply vacuum them up. Diluted enzyme cleaners with peppermint will kill them all virtually on contact and also have a fumigant action. Put 1 gallons of this mix in a rechargeable 2-gal. stainless steel fire extinguisher and pump up the pressure to 100# and you have the best sprayer you have ever used to control stinging insects.

Bumble Bees -
Bumble bee nests are annual and do not last from one year to the next and are usually found in the ground,usually under a tuft of grass or other plant. Bumble bees can also be located in old rodent burrows, abandoned bird or rodent nests found in attics, wall voids, old buildings and/or in old stuffed furniture or mattresses left outside or stored in outbuildings and/or even dryer vents. At first the queen is alone in the nest; then she produces a dozen or so workers to take over the job of gathering pollen and nectar so she can lay new broods. It usually takes 3 weeks or more to develop from egg to adult. The adults can sting you repeatedly and have pulled objects almost 300 times their own weight. By late August there may be hundreds of workers, males and new queens. After fertilization the new queens look for winter hibernation sites.

Control -
Find the nest and vacuum and/or flood with diluted Safe Solutions Enzyme Cleaner with Peppermint or Not Nice to Bugs* or dust with food-grade DE at night when all the bees are home. Remember though, they are extremely beneficial and can travel to 20 - 30 blossoms per minute gathering nectar, in a days time she can pollinate hundreds and hundreds of plants. They are more efficient pollinators than honey bees. Nectar from a single blossom gives her enough energy for about a minute flight. They do produce small amounts of honey, but it is not fit for human consumption. Scientists have determined it is mathematically impossible for her to fly, but apparently no one told her. Bumble bees can sting more than once and their stings are extremely painful. Ground nests can be fumigated with carbon dioxide or carbon monoxide.

Stinging Insect Dangers -
Venom of stinging insects such as yellowjackets, honeybees, paper wasps, hornets and fire ants can cause severe and deadly reactions. A potentially life-threatening allergic reaction, called anaphylaxis, can be triggered by exposure to one or more allergens, including foods, insect stings, drugs and latex products. Anaphylaxis can affect multiple areas of the body (such as skin, respiratory tract, gastrointestinal tract and the cardiovascular system). Symptoms can include severe headache, nausea and vomiting, sneezing and coughing, hives, swelling of the lips, tongue and throat, itching all over the body and anxiety. The most dangerous symptoms include difficulty breathing, a drop in blood pressure and shock, all of which can be fatal. Bee careful!

Tips for Relieving Insect Bites -
There are venom extraction kits now available and commercial sting reliever kits, but nothing works as well as not being stung or bit.

- Pain can be soothed by a thick paste of baking soda and water. Half an onion applied to a bee sting helps stop the pain and swelling.

Chiggers -
To ease the pain an itching of chigger bites, rub with a moist aspirin tablet or put on a dab of nail polish.

General -
To treat insect bites, rub on apple cider vinegar, deodorant, or some meat tenderizer to relieve itching. A paste made of baking soda also helps. Try spraying diluted Safe Solutions, Inc. enzyme cleaner from a small spritzer bottle on the bite as a sting reliever.

To avoid insect bites, avoid wearing perfume, bright colors and flowery print clothes or bright jewelry. People who are highly sensitive should consider immunothereapy (desensitizing procedures) and consult their medical provider about emergency kits.

Generally, you will not get stung until you approach the nest. Ants, bees and wasps usually only sting to repel nest invaders. If you are stung, swat them away; this will prevent most stinging insects from injecting all of their venom in you. It takes 20 seconds for them to drain their venom. If a honey bee stings you, carefully remove the stinger; swatting may actually inject more venom. When you are away from the nest, elevate the area that was stung and use ice to reduce the swelling. Over-the-counter medications can help, such as, non-drowsy antihistamine, e.g., Benadryl

. If the reaction spreads, or there is swelling and/or breathing problems and/or you feel faint, seek medical advice immediately; these are signs the reaction is moving through the body. Remember to leave them bee.

Credit Card -
If you are bitten by a mosquito or stung by a bee, take a credit card and firmly stroke the bite/sting in an x pattern; stroke up and then down 5 times on the first line of the x and then do the second line the same way for a total of 20 strokes on each line. If a hard bump has formed, stroke the contour over the up a few more times.

Clean the edge of the credit card as you work to help remove the toxins and stinger from the edge of the card. Relief should be complete with an hour or so.

Trap Caution:
Keep all traps in areas inaccessible to children because large numbers of yellowjackets may be attracted to the baits. When traps are full of still live yellowjackets; either place them in a freezer for a day or in a black, heavy-duty garbage bag placed in direct sunlight for several hours.

Remember, never use fire or gasoline or volatile pesticides to control stinging insects. They are not effective and can incite the creatures to attack! Never use a flashlight or regular light at night = you will direct the angry mob to you! If you use a light at night, use a red light.

Side Note - Interesting Fact:
Burning a 100% beeswax (a candle only needs 51% beeswax to be labeled as a beeswax candle) creates a uniquely fresh smell that actually helps relieve allergy, sinus and asthma symptoms as burning beeswax produces negative ions that clean the air of dust, bacteria, mold, viruses and other pollutants. Be sure you only burn 100% beeswax candles.