How to cope with wasps and hornets


You’ve just sat down to a nice al fresco cottage dinner—you’ve carried out all the plates and glasses, weighed down the napkins, and put those net covers over the potato salad—and now it’s time to enjoy the fruits of your labour! 

But then the wasps show up. And they won’t leave. If you’re lucky, you’ll spend dinner waving them away. If you’re not, well, a paste of meat tenderizer and water will help take some pain out of the sting.

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could deal with the wasps before they drive your dinner indoors? We’ve got some ideas for you.

Prevent wasps from nesting close by

The easiest way to deal with wasps and hornets is to stop them from nesting nearby in the first place. Wasps are an essential part of your cottage’s ecosystem, preying on pest species like aphids and tomato cutworms, so try to avoid killing them if you can. 

Make the area around your cottage as unattractive as possible (from a wasp’s perspective, of course!) Don’t leave food outside, keep drinks covered when you’re outside, and always close your garbage up tightly. If you have fruit trees on your property, make sure to clean up any fallen fruit right away. Wasps also really like yellow, so avoid planting too many marigolds.

Around the house—especially if your cottage has an attic—seal any vents, window screens, or door frames that might be letting wasps in. And if you have a birdhouse nearby, stop wasps from nesting in its roof by lining the under-roof area with tinfoil, or rubbing it with soap.

And those fake wasps’ nests that some folks hang to discourage wasps from nesting too close to another colony? Well, their effectiveness is questionable; some swear by them, and some point out that many species of wasp aren’t actually territorial. If you want to try the decoy nest route, save yourself some money and make your own out of paper bags stuffed with newspaper

Trap them 

If you’ve already got a wasp problem and they’re making life miserable, trapping them may be your best option. You can make a simple trap from a pop bottle, or go a little more upscale with a glass trap, available at most hardware stores. Although sweet bait (juice or sugary water) works well on wasps, you run the risk of also trapping garden-friendly bees. Try baiting your trap with water and something savoury, like a piece of luncheon meat. 

Zap them

To get rid of pesky wasps once they’re already swarming your picnic table, a racquet-shaped bug zapper can be far more effective—and less likely to result in an angry sting—than an open-palmed swat. Just be careful: bug zappers can deliver a nasty shock if you touch them at the wrong time.

Spray them naturally

Any time you try to tackle a nest on your own, wait until the sun goes down—wasps and hornets are far less aggressive in the evening.

For ground-nesting yellowjackets, dumping soapy boiling water on the nest’s entry points can be an effective way to get rid of the problem, but make sure you’re wearing protective clothing before a job like this.

Placing a large, clear bowl over the entry to the nest can also be effective—it confuses the wasps and encourages them to relocate.

You can also find organic, eco-friendly wasp and hornet spray at garden centres or health food stores, although spraying nests with dish soap and a hose-end sprayer can also work.

Remove nests

If you find an aerial nest in an easy-to-reach place, you can remove it yourself with some basic precautions. Wait until it’s dark, when all the wasps will be back in the nest, and wear long pants and sleeves, as well as gloves and, if you’ve got it, a face net. Tape your cuffs shut for extra protection. Wrap a red cloth or thin piece of cellophane of the light you’re using to see, and walk as lightly as possible.

Once you’re close to the nest, place a cloth bag over the entire nest and tie it off at the top, pulling the nest down as you do. From there, you can set the bag in a bucket of water, using a stone to keep it submerged, or put it in the freezer.

Don’t try to remove nests that are in walls or far underground—those are best left to professional pest control folks. 

Just a note: if you have any doubt about removing hornets or wasps on your own, it’s better to call a professional than end up with a weekend-killing crop of stings.


Do you have any hints for dealing with wasps or hornets?