How to get rid of wasps, hornets and bees

Warmer months tend to bring more flying insects like wasps, hornets and bees.

Here we explain more about them, how dangerous they are and what to do about them.

How to get rid of wasps

In the summer it is common to see someone frantically swatting at wasps, but most are docile and only sting in self-defense. They generally prey on soft-bodied insects to feed their larvae.

In late summer/early fall, they become more of a nuisance when they need sugary substances to feed themselves. That could be nectar… or human food and drink.

According to Paul Blackhurst, Head of Technical Academy at Rentokil Pest Control: “You might be surprised to learn that wasps can also be very beneficial to the ecosystem, particularly when they feed protein to their young larvae. They get that protein by eating garden insect pests, and the maggots, in turn, reward the adults with a sugary secretion — essentially feces.

“When the food-to-adult ratio falls, problems can arise as the adult wasps still crave their carbohydrate intake but may not be getting enough of their offspring.” Typically, this imbalance occurs towards the end of July, when wasps can become particularly troublesome and persistent around items like ice cream and sugary drinks.”

Most wasps we see in the UK are social wasps. The two species of wasps most likely to make an impact on your picnic are the common wasp (Vespula vulgaris) or the somewhat bad-tempered German wasp (Vespula germanica).

Desperate or dying wasps release alarm pheromones to warn and call out to other wasps. To prevent a wasp from annoying you, catch it under a jar and release it when you leave.

This will prevent wasps from bothering you

  • Don’t skip any food. Avoid cutting out high-protein foods — including pet foods — during the spring and summer. Wasps are attracted to sweet smells later in the summer, so don’t skip sweet foods or sugary drinks.
  • Make sure your containers are sealed. Clean garbage cans regularly and keep them tightly closed. Keep indoor containers away from windows and outside doors to avoid attracting outside pests.
  • Keep windows and doors closed. If you want to keep your windows open, especially in the summer, you should get a fly screen.
  • Use herbal scents. Wasps are repelled by herbal and aromatic scents such as thyme, spearmint and eucalyptus.

top tip: If your pet food regularly attracts pests, you should consider getting an automatic feeder. Some seal when your pet leaves, keeping pests out and keeping wet food fresh.

How to get rid of wasp nests

Wasps are apex predators and important in keeping the ecosystem healthy. However, it is best to prevent wasp nests in your home.

Wasps can become aggressive when their nest is threatened and will sting anyone who gets too close. It’s also dangerous if you’re allergic to wasp stings, as you risk anaphylactic shock, which can be fatal if not treated promptly.

Paul Blackhurst says: “Apart from their painful stings, wasps are notorious for building their nests near people, including in the building of voids and eaves of houses, but they can also go unnoticed in attics and attics.

“New wasp queens will emerge from their wintering grounds and begin building new nests in the spring. It is advisable to treat a nest earlier in the year, before numbers increase and wasps become more aggressive, increasing the risk of being stung when handling these pests.

“Working with a local pest control company is the most effective way to remove a wasp nest, but there are some DIY products such as traps and sprays that can help too.”

Check your home and yard for nests in early spring. At this time of year, they are a more manageable size – about that of a golf ball.

Check the attic, outbuildings like sheds, your garage, and under eaves. If you know of a place where there has been a nest before, look there as well, as queens often return to the same place.

If you find a nest don’t get rid of yourself – especially if you are allergic to insect bites. Wasps will try to defend their nest, so they are likely to become aggressive if they disturb it. If you find a wasp nest, contact a Pest control service such as Rentokil.

It’s worth noting that some communities offer pest control services and may get rid of your wasp nest for you. You can Report a pest problem on GOV.UK here (England and Wales only) or find out more Pest Control Services in Northern Ireland here.

How to get rid of hornets

Hornets are a species of wasp. They are the largest of the social wasps and tend to be longer and stockier than more common wasps. The only hornet native to the UK is the European hornet (Vespa Crabro), which lives mainly in forests.

While we often think that hornets are more aggressive than common wasps, they are quite passive and will only sting when provoked or when their nest is threatened. However, when threatened, they will fan out – which can be intimidating.

Hornet prevention and removal tips are the same as for common wasps (see above). Although it’s good to have them around if you’re an avid gardener as they prey on species that eat plants and crops and are useful for pollination.

How to get rid of bees

There are over 250 bee species in the UK[1]. Among the most common are the Western/European honey bee (Apis mellifera), the red mason bee (Osmia bicornis) and a variety of bumblebees.

Paul Blackhurst says: “Bees can be divided into different groups: solitary bees, bumble bees and honey bees. With spring in full bloom, solitary bees, bumblebees and honeybees – as well as wasps – are leaving their hives and nests in search of food sources such as nectar and other insects.

“Wasps are often confused with bees, especially honey bees. However, on closer inspection, bees vary in color from golden brown to almost black and are furrier than wasps.”

Honey bees are social bees and only sting when they feel threatened. The lone red mason bee has no sting at all when male and the female will only sting you if handled very roughly. In other words, the threat to humans or pets is negligible.

bee fact: Red mason bees pollinate much more effectively than honey bees because they carry pollen on the underside of their abdomen rather than on their legs.

They are also vital to the ecosystem and 25% of bee species are threatened with extinction[2]. For this reason, pest controllers do not apply bee treatments unless there is a serious threat to human life. While it’s not illegal to apply treatments yourself, you should consider all other available options before eradicating.

“Bees are beneficial insects to our ecosystem and in most cases no treatment is necessary,” says Paul Blackhurst. “But — where such action is required and permitted by law — it will most likely involve physical removal rather than the use of chemicals.”

We recommend leaving bees alone. Keep your distance from them and don’t fret if they seem more active in warmer weather – this is normal behavior. While they are more common in spring and early summer, most will have departed later in the summer.

If leaving her alone is not an option, then the second option should be let her move. If you suspect you have a nest of honey bees, Contact the British Beekeepers Association arrange for swarm elimination, which is usually free of charge.

Only when you feel you have no choice should extermination be an option. Contact the British Pest Control Association (BPCA). find a pest controller. It’s worth noting that they approach this ethically, but can also refuse treatment unless they feel it is absolutely necessary.

You need to make sure you have insurance if a pest infestation does occur. It prevents anger and stress.

Our home emergency cover helps you stay safe. This includes eliminating rats, mice, wasps and hornets if there is evidence of an infestation in your home.

To learn more about pest controllers’ views on bees, read the BPCA’s We’ll Let You Bee Brochure

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