How to Get Rid of a Wasp or Bee Nest in 5 Steps
Stick it to those insects (safely) before they stick a stinger in you
Warm weather brings swarms of buzzing insects — and the threat of getting stung, especially if there’s a bee or wasp nest near your home.
Insect stings cause more than half a million emergency room visits each year, according to National Pest Management Association (NPMA).
One of the best ways to prevent warm weather stings is to check your home and yard for nests made by bees and various types of wasps, such as paper wasps and yellow jackets, according to the NPMA.
Depending on the type of bee or wasp, you may find a nest up high and attached to a structure, such as the eaves of a building or a porch ceiling. Or, you may find a nest down low, in a hole in the ground or under porch steps. In fact, you may run into a nest while mowing your lawn.
Don’t let that nest be a buzzkill. Take these steps to safely deal with a nest anywhere on your property.
1. ID the insect. Some insects are more aggressive than others, so it’s good to know which type you’ve got. (You can check this guide to stinging insects from the NPMA.) For example:
Bees. Honeybees make nests out of wax and help the environment by pollinating plants. They’re not normally aggressive, but will sting in self defense. If you want the nest off your property, consider calling a beekeeper to see if the bees can be relocated, the University of California’s Integrated Pest Management Program suggests.
Paper wasps. Paper wasps build nests of papery chewed wood pulp. A nest may contain only a few insects, which are normally gentle but will sting if threatened, according to University of Minnesota Extension. The nests aren’t covered, so you can see the combs and easily apply a pesticide. Many homeowners can safely remove a paper wasp nest.
(Photo: Tom Grundy/Shutterstock)
Yellow jackets. These wasps often build nests covered with a paper-like “envelope” with just one opening. The nest may contain hundreds to thousands of the insects, which are very aggressive and may attack in groups, according to Michigan State University Extension. If you’ve got a yellow jacket nest, hire a pest control professional. Trying to spray such nest, especially while standing on a ladder, may be very dangerous.
2. Assess the threat. If a nest is located away from your house and far from where your kids play, the best choice may be to leave it alone, according to the University of Minnesota Extension. Many stinging insects use their nests for only one year, then abandon it, so the problem may go away on its own. If you go this route, you can avoid using toxic insecticides. If the nest is close to (or on) your house or in your yard, read on.
Related: The Animals Most Dangerous to Humans
3. Get the right equipment. If you decide to get rid of a nest, make sure you have the proper safety gear. If the nest is up high, you’ll need a ladder that’s right for the job, as well as an insect spray labeled for use on wasps and hornets. Before you buy, read the label on the spray to make sure the pesticide will work for your situation. For example, many sprays can be used only outside, so if the nest is inside your home, you may need to call a pest control company. (If the nest is in the ground, you can use an insecticidal dust, according to Michigan State University Extension. You sprinkle it at the entrance to the nest. That typically will kill the insects within a day or two, and you’re done.) Also get a bee hat, protective eyewear and leather gloves.
4. Spray in the evening. “The main thing to remember is you don’t want to knock down a nest of insects during the day,” says John Drengenberg, consumer safety director at UL. Wait until late evening because more insects are likely to be inside the nest. Also, they’re less active at that time, so you reduce your chances of getting stung. Don your protective gear, including long sleeves and long pants that should be tucked into your socks. Clear kids and pets from the area. Try to avoid shining a light right on the nest and, if you must, use one with a red filter. If the nest is high up, stand off to the side rather than directly under it, because dead insects will fall after you spray. Following the instructions on the pesticide label, spray the nest. Then, get away as quickly as you can.
5. Wait to remove the nest. The following day, watch the nest for insect activity. If there are still insects flying around the nest, spray again in the evening. If there are none, use a rake handle or similar tool to knock the nest down. For good measure, spray insecticide on the remaining pieces that have fallen on the ground. Using heavy gloves, pick up and dispose of the nest and dead wasps so pets or other animals don’t eat them.
If you’re uncomfortable dealing with a nest on your own, consider calling in a pest control pro. “It might cost you some money, but these people have the know how to get the job done,” Drengenberg says.
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