Wasps are part of the same family to which honeybees and bumblebees also belong. This is the Hymenoptera order. We are sometimes asked if ground wasps are dangerous to humans. In fact, whether it’s ground wasps (Vespula), wasps that build aerial nests (e.g. Dolichovespula), or bees, it’s always important to take precautions before intervening near their nests. Wasps are armed with stingers that they use to defend their colonies. Unlike bees, wasps don’t die after using them. They can also use them several times.
A trivial gesture can sometimes turn into a drama. Indeed, it’s not necessary for a wasp colony to be directly attacked for them to launch an attack. They simply need to feel disturbed for an attack to take place.
In addition to sometimes being very painful, wasp stings can cause different reactions. As we’ve mentioned already, these insects have a stinger by which they inject a venom into the skin of their victims. Some people tolerate them well, while others can have serious allergic reactions that sometimes lead to anaphylactic shock, which can prove deadly. People who are allergic to bee or wasp stings should carry an injector pen prescribed by their doctor with them at all times. In case of stings, these people must administer the required medication and be driven to the hospital immediately to receive the treatment necessary for their survival.
In Canada, about eight deaths per year are attributable to reactions following wasp stings [source].
You should also know that, even if an individual has never experienced allergic symptoms before, a high number of wasp stings can cause serious complications and pose a risk to their life. If you experience shortness of breath, abnormal swelling, itching, dizziness, or other abnormal symptoms following a wasp sting, or if you are the victim of multiple wasp stings, consult your doctor immediately. They will be able to get the situation under control and help you mitigate your symptoms as much as possible.
The damage caused by wasps
Wasps are very helpful in nature. Among other things, they help pollinate plants. The damage that they can cause is quite minor. Ground wasps (Vespula) dig small tunnels in the ground. Generally speaking, aerial wasps (e.g. Dolichovespula) limit themselves to building “paper” nests in trees, under ledges, or elsewhere. Unfortunately, a wasp colony sometimes decides to settle in an attic or the walls of a house. It then becomes necessary to rely on an exterminator to solve the problem.
By their very presence, wasps can sometimes cause financial losses. This is especially the case for certain restaurants with outdoor patios under attack by them.
How to get rid of wasps
There are several ways to get rid of wasps. Whether it’s traps, mechanical actions, or the use of approved pesticides, it’s important to use care and precaution.
Wasps are particularly attracted by food, especially sweet or protein-filled foods. Avoid leaving any food whatsoever outside.
In addition, avoid dirty dishes and juice, liquor, and alcohol cans.
Make sure that you put your garbage in hermetically sealed bags.
Avoid leaving wet pet food outside the house.
If you eat a meal outside, keep the food and drinks covered as much as possible.
Wasp traps usually consist of shapes, colours, and baits that attract wasps and trap the insect. You must be extremely careful to install them away from busy spaces, since these traps “attract” wasps to the places where they are hung. It’s also a good idea to make sure that these traps—as well as the wasps that will be attracted to them—don’t pose a risk to children.
Eliminating a wasp nest
If you need to eliminate a wasp nest or if you have to work near a wasp nest, you should always wear long clothing that covers your entire body. You should also wear a protective mesh to protect your neck and body. Avoid sudden or overly fast movements near them, since these could provoke an attack.
Before intervening, it’s also important to secure the premises and to make sure that the people on site and even the neighbours, in some cases, take the necessary precautions to avoid being stung if an accident occurs.
Keep in mind that an aerial nest can harbour up to about 5000 wasps. Handling a wasp nest involves significant risks. If the nest isn’t bothering anyone or threatening their health, you should consider leaving it in place until the wasps desert it in the fall.
Aerial nests have a single entrance located at the bottom of the nest. It’s possible to remove it by inserting it into a plastic bag and cutting off its attachment at the top. This operation should be done at night when the wasps are less active.
With respect to ground wasps, their nests may have several points of entry and exit. This configuration can make the operation even trickier to perform.
Insecticides for wasps
The use of insecticides may sometimes be required. This option should always be considered as a last resort. It’s important to use an approved insecticide for the wasp treatment; otherwise, the treatment may be ineffective.
It is of the utmost importance to read and follow the instructions concerning the preparation and application as well as the protective clothing required to handle the insecticide. Insecticides are toxic products that are potentially hazardous to people’s health and the environment.
Photo of a wasp
Photo of a honeybee
Photo of a bumblebee
A colony of honeybees sometimes escapes from a hive to establish a colony outside of it. The trails of bees can sometimes be found in walls, attics, or trees.
Relying on an exterminator for problems related to the presence of wasps is strongly recommended. Your pest management professional is the person in the best position to perform this type of operation, since they have the experience, the equipment, and the products suited to this type of job.