Do Wasps Have Any Redeeming Value, or Do They Just Suck?
Most of us grew up fearing the sting of the mighty wasp. As a child, how many times were you warned by your parents to stay away from the hedge (or a corner of the yard) because of a wasp nest? Maybe you’ve even been stung once or twice—it’s hard to forget, after all. It’s an experience you don’t want to repeat too often, that much is for sure!
Wasps have a reputation for being fierce insects. When they get angry, they attack and sting. As a homeowner, gardener, or Floridian who enjoys the outdoors, you’ve learned to keep a safe distance.
But do wasps deserve to be so harshly criticized? Do they have any redeeming value at all?
All (okay, most—looking at you, mosquitoes) creatures in nature play a role in the environment. Read on to find out more about wasps, their dangers, redeeming qualities, and how to safely get rid of them if you don’t want them in your back yard.
Commonly Found Wasps in Florida
In Florida, you can expect to find these wasp species:
Before we dive any deeper, please take a few minutes to learn the differences between wasps and bees and identify the different wasp species.
It helps to know the different kinds of nests these wasps build, so you can quickly identify which species you have encountered.
Different wasp species also have different stinging behavior. For example, when a yellow jacket is harmed, it releases an “alarm pheromone” that ignites aggressive and defensive stinging behavior in its fellow wasps. Some species are more aggressive than others. While some are solitary, such as the cicada killer, others live in social colonies.
Dangers of Wasps
All wasps are venomous. A wasp sting is often painful and can cause localized swelling. It is for this reason that they have such an unfavorable reputation! While many people are not allergic to wasps’ stings, if you have any concerns after being on the receiving end of a sting, contact your doctor.
The yellow jacket is one of the most aggressive wasp species. If they feel threatened or if their nests are disturbed, they are known to attack in swarms. This is a serious danger.
I knew a gentleman several years ago who was attacked by a swarm of yellow jackets while mowing the lawn. He experienced over 40 stings (unlike bees, yellow jackets do not die after they sting, and can sting repeatedly) and was in agony for weeks. It even resulted in PTSD-like symptoms for months afterward.
Yellow jacket wasp; photo by UF-IFAS
Wasps are abundant and highly active during the summer months, with many hibernating in the winter months. It is useful to know that they become less active at nighttime.
While wasps are known for having nests in trees or bushes, depending on the species, they may also build a nest in the eaves or on the ground. Educate yourself on the nesting behavior and movements of the wasps in our area so that you can protect yourself.
Again, here are a few resources to guide you:
Redeeming Qualities of Wasps
If you’re a nature lover, you know that every creature has a vital role in the environment. Yes, this includes wasps! Did you know that they help to keep the insect population down by feeding on pests such as mosquitos, spiders, and flies? So, if you want to keep pests under control, let the wasp do its job.
Wasps are also natural pollinators and do an even better job than the imported European honeybee. Do your part for the environment, and leave wasps alone. Identify where they are nesting and be careful when doing yard work.
Cicada killer wasp; photo sourced by Purdue University; credit J. Obermeyer
How to Get Rid of Wasps Safely
Unconvinced of wasps’ redeeming qualities? Perhaps you or a member of your family is allergic to wasp stings.
Whatever the reason, consider the following removal methods:
- Wasps love wood piles. They use wood fiber as material to construct their nests. Remove any wood piles you’re not using.
- If you decide to remove a wasp nest, have all the right equipment on hand. Be sure to don protective gear. Assess the nest size, check that it is empty, and knock it down. Only then can you safely destroy it.
- If you opt for wasp killer spray, use it during the coolest time of the day (most likely early morning). Wear protective gear, stand a safe distance away, and spray. Most insecticides come in sprays that can reach up to 20 feet so that you can keep your distance.
- Remove any fruit or garbage from areas closest to your house, as wasps are attracted to these treats.
- When in doubt, give us a call at 386-673-1557. Our team is trained and equipped to handle the safe removal of wasps.
Waving at Wasps…From a Distance
If you decide to give the wasps in your yard a chance, determine their nest location. If it’s in a low traffic area and presents minimal risk to you, simply avoid disturbing it. Being bothered by a wasp? Don’t swat at it! This will cause it to become agitated, and it may attack you.
As with all creatures, it is wise to inform yourself about the benefits and risks of having wasps on your property. Wasp stings are painful, and even dangerous if you are allergic to them.
However, by having a healthy respect for this insect, you can find ways to live with them. Maybe think twice about resorting to insecticide spray. As pollinators, wasps contribute to the growth of healthy crops and flowers. As predators, they help to control the local nuisance insect population. You can play a role in keeping our local ecosystem healthy.
Todd Stebleton is the owner and operator of Universal Pest Control, a family-owned business for over 25 years in Ormond Beach, Florida. He and his wife Natalie are proud to have built a company focused on conducting business with honesty and integrity: keeping customers first, protecting the environment, and providing trustworthy, personal service.
Universal: Honest, Environmentally Friendly Pest ControlTags: backyard pests, cicada killer wasp, home pest control, homeowners, paper wasp, residential pests, wasp, yellow jacket