There are few pests more stressful at the moment than wasps. Everyone has come home to discover an unwelcome, yellow-stripped, stinger-clad guest perched on their wall or ceiling. Fast, armed with a nasty sting and a disposition to match, wasps can be an unpleasant problem to handle. To make matters worse, the most effective tool for disposing of them, commercial wasp spray, can be harmful to pets, humans, and children. Wasp spray can also contaminate food and harm plants if it comes in contact with their leaves. Thankfully there are numerous homemade, DIY wasp sprays and repellents that you can utilize to help manage your wasp problem.
How To Make Homemade Wasp Spray
Before we get into the list, we should mention that dealing with wasps can be difficult and potentially dangerous. Wasps are hard to hit, even with commercial spray. Their stings pack quite a punch, hurting badly and possibly leading to redness, swelling, and itching. Symptoms can also include throat swelling and anaphylaxis for those with wasp and bee allergies. When dealing with wasps, wear protective clothing, including shirts with long sleeves and pants that extend to your shoes. Also, always spray for wasps at night, as they will be sluggish.
If you’re allergic to wasps or bee stings, don’t attempt to deal with them yourself. Instead, have a friend or family member attend to them or hire a pest control specialist.
Lemon extract is an effective wasp killer and pesticide. For the best results, combine 3 tablespoons of lemon extract and 1 cup of water. Add this solution to a plastic spray bottle for a quick, easy, and lethal insecticide. If you want to create an effective repellent, reduce the amount of lemon extract by half. If used with the full amount, spraying wasps should kill them, and spraying a nest should prevent them from returning.
Liquid Dish Soap
Another well-known wasp-killing concoction is dish soap and water. This solution is great because it’s easy to make and harmless to most plants. Fill a plastic sprayer about halfway with water. Then add a quarter cup of liquid dish soap and gently mix. If any suds bubble to the top, let them come to a rest. Dish soap works to kill wasps by allowing water to get into breathing tubes called spiracles. Once water enters these breathing tubes, the wasps quickly suffocate. This soapy water also works on hornets, yellowjackets, and many other kinds of bothersome insects.
Natural Wasp Traps
There are a few good DIY wasp traps you can find online, and what follows is one of our favorites. Remember that homemade wasp traps usually take some time to clear out a nest completely. They may also attract and kill other insects, some of which can be beneficial to your lawn or garden. You should use them sparingly and only when you have a nest you’re trying to eliminate.
Vinegar and Soap Trap
For this trap, you’ll need to combine about 2 cups of apple cider vinegar, 2 to 3 cups of sugar, and 1 cup of warm water into a mixing bowl. Mix this solution thoroughly until the sugar has fully dissolved. Then add about a quarter cup of dish soap and gently stir until dissolved. Once again, if any suds bubble up, just let the solution sit until they settle.
Next, you will need to prepare the vehicle for the trap’s mixture. To do this, take an empty 1-liter soda bottle and cut off one-third of its top. Flip the top section of the bottle over and fit it, neck down, into the rest of the bottle. Tape the outside of the top of the trap to secure it in place. Finally, pour the liquid solution into the trap.
You can place this trap below any nest clinging to the eaves of your home or doorway. Or, in the case of ground burrowing wasps or hornets, carefully place it adjacent to the nest. You can also tie a strong string around the bottle’s neck to hang this trap from a tree. However, if you choose to do this, we recommend reducing the total mixture by half, as the full weight can make this trap too heavy.
This trap is an excellent home remedy for wasps and other nuisance insects. It lures them in with sugar, water, and vinegar while the soap suffocates them, similarly to the spray. This mixture also coats their wings making it harder for them to fly and escape. The trap’s shape creates a funnel, which is easy for insects to fall into, but nearly impossible for them to get out. There are many variations on this trap, some recommending just sugar, others honey, but we think the vinegar and soap solution is the most effective.
Natural Wasp Repellents
There is no shortage of wasp and DIY insect repellents you can find online. While most work, some can be deceptive in their effectiveness. For example, many espouse essential oils as an effective, all-natural repellent. While some essential oils work, namely peppermint, lemongrass, and garlic oils, they frequently need to be reapplied and have a very low area of effect. These oils may also not be safe for children or pets, so check the labels before using them. Furthermore, all repellents and other preventative measures will not kill wasps on the spot. Instead, these repellents keep them from setting up shop in the first place or keep them away once they have been cleared out.
As mentioned above, some essential oils do work in preventing insects. Peppermint oil seems to be the most effective option found online. To create an effective wasp repellent with peppermint oil, add a tablespoon of oil to 4 cups of water and gently mix in a small bowl. Take caution when pouring this mixture, as undiluted essential oils can irritate the skin. Once mixed, add this solution to a spray bottle. Spray the area you want to keep wasps away from while taking care not to get the mist from the spray in your eyes. This solution will need to be reapplied about once a week to be fully effective.
Wasp Repellent Plants
Certain plants can act as highly effective wasp and pest repellents. Adding these plants to your garden, backyard, or lawn is one of the best natural ways to protect your home against wasps and other nuisance insects.
- Mint: Mint is a small, deep green herb that exudes an aromatic oil with small, rough-textured leaves. Depending on the species, mint can vine out, growing quite large. Wasps dislike the oils exuded from this plant. The most effective types of mint to deter wasps are spearmint and peppermint. Most species of mint are safe for humans to handle but are highly toxic to cats and dogs.
- Lemongrass: Lemongrass has been a popular natural insect repellent for personal and commercial use. Citronella, an oil used in flying insect-repelling candles and sprays, is derived from the leaves of this plant. Lemongrass is an effective wasp deterrent when planted around the home. It is also non-toxic and only harmful to pets if ingested in massive amounts.
- Sage: Sage is a small, slightly gray-leafed plant common in herb gardens and is used as a spice. A hardy perennial, sage will come back year after year if planted in your yard or garden. Sage is also a potent wasp repellent while also being completely pet safe. Some types of sage also possess vibrant blue or purple flowers.
- Rosemary: This pleasant-smelling shrub is a prevalent herb and spice. It has woody, needle-like leaves, and bright blue flowers. While slightly more challenging to care for than other plants on this list, rosemary is a beautiful addition to almost any backyard or garden. Rosemary likes warm, humid climates and can be adversely affected by the cold. Alternatively, you can pot it and bring it inside during the colder months. Either way, it acts as an excellent natural repellent.
- Thyme: Thyme is another beautiful herb that belongs to the same genus as oregano. A type of perennial evergreen, thyme has small, green to bluish-gray leaves. Its fragrance is similar to mint and clove, and it grows in small bush-like bundles. Thyme not only repels wasps but many insects sensitive to various scents, like tomato hornworms, corn earworms, slugs, and various maggots.
- Fennel: This herb belongs to the carrot family. It has a large, bulb-like base with long stalks. These stalks are tipped with leafy foliage that grows bright yellow flowers. The plant’s leaves are often dried and used as a spice, along with its seeds. The stalks and bulbs of certain fennel species are also edible. Regardless, almost all fennel has insect repelling properties while also being safe for cats and dogs.
Wasps vs. Honeybees
While wasps and hornets are an unwelcome sight on anyone’s property, this doesn’t extend to all yellow, striped flying visitors. Easily confused with their aggressive cousins, the gentle honeybee is a beneficial insect and should be a welcomed guest to your garden. While both insects are valuable to local ecosystems, wasps and hornets are considered invasive pests compared to honeybees. Honeybees are far less likely to pursue, sting, or take up residence on your property. Before grabbing the DIY wasp spray or setting out a vinegar and soap trap, make sure the bugs you’re eliminating are actual pests, not honeybees.
Key Differences Between Wasps, Hornets, and Honeybees
- Appearance: Wasps, yellowjackets, and hornets all have long, shiny bodies. They also possess thin legs and slender wings. On the other hand, honeybees have round bodies with a fuzzy appearance. Furthermore, both the legs and wings of the honeybee are thicker than that of the wasp.
- Behavior: Both bees and wasps sting only out of defense. They both try to avoid people and animals whenever possible. Wasps, however, are more easily agitated and are more aggressive overall than honeybees. Wasps will be more likely to pursue their target, stinging multiple times along the way if able. This difference in attitude comes down to the mechanism that delivers each insect’s sting. Honeybees only possess a single barbed stinger. Once a bee delivers its attack, the stinger is ripped from the bee’s body, leaving it with a mortal wound. On the other hand, wasps can sting all day long and are none the worse for it.
- Nests: Bees nest inside structures, filling them with hexagonal networks of wax-like excretion. They usually nest inside trees, walls, or the ground. They will make a series of holes they enter and exit through. Wasps, on the other hand, often create external structures. Wasp nests are made out of a material composed of wood pulp and saliva and resemble dark brown mud or paper. Furthermore, wasp nests are usually abandoned after a year, with only a few species known to reuse them. Honeybee nests will last as long as the colony, frequently existing for years on end, with some nests growing to massive sizes.
- Diet and Prey: Honeybees and wasps differ the most regarding their diet. Honeybees are vegetarian, eating nectar and pollen from the plants they visit. Wasps, on the other hand, consume nectar and sugars as well as other insects. Dietary specifics vary depending on the type of wasp you’re dealing with, but they mainly feed insects to their larvae while eating sugars later in life. However, some wasps hunt insects as their main food source, preferring aphids, spiders, and flies.
Garden infestations come in many shapes and forms. From minuscule aphids to rapidly multiplying termites and ants. Out of all of them, a wasp infestation is one of the most stressful to come across. While valuable for the ecosystem, most homeowners don’t want them buzzing around due to their aggressive nature. Thankfully there are plenty of safe and effective at-home repellents and, in worst cases, lethal insecticides to keep these bugs at bay. From planting aromatic spices in your garden to building a quick DIY wasp trap, you have plenty of options for natural wasp repellents.