Understanding Wasp Infestations and How to Handle Them

Wasps may be critical members of the insect food chain, but a home infestation can be frightening and threatening to your safety. It can also be difficult to handle a sudden wasp problem in your home without professional help since many wasps have a notorious sting and become very aggressive when they feel attacked. It is important to address wasps in your home as quickly as possible since they are prone to build nests in safe spaces the moment they stake out a prime spot.

With the wide variety of bees and wasps in the country, this guide will help you identify the type of insect in your home and the best way to safely handle them. We’ll also explain when wasps are a risk to your safety and how wasps help control the insect population.

The most common variety of wasps—paper wasps, hornets, and yellow jackets—are often found in and around the home. Each species can also be identified by their paper-like nests that connect to sturdy plants, inside the ground, and on the sides of buildings. These hives should be handled by a professional pest specialist, especially when they’re built in a high-traffic area of your home. Read on to hear about why wasps come into your space and how to take care of them quickly and safely.

How to Identify A Wasp in Your Home

It is not uncommon to confuse wasps with the many varieties of bees. Not all wasps can sting and not all intend to build large nests in your home for the long haul. 

Above all, you can easily identify a wasp by its segmented body, unlike bees. Bees have wider and fuzzier bodies, always in one segment instead of two. The thorax and abdomen of the wasp, however, are connected at a joint, making it easier for them to bend and maneuver.

Wasps also feed on other insects, as opposed to pollen like bees, making them a more predatory species as well as more aggressive. Though there are thousands of wasp species throughout the country, exterminators only encounter a small number of them invading homes. The vast majority of wasps keep away from building indoors and are considered great contributors to balancing out the insect food chain.

Here are some ways to distinguish if you do indeed have wasps in your home and how they compare to other similar flying insects.

Wasp Coloring and Physical Features

Paper Wasps: These wasps typically have a brown or black body. Their yellow and red markings on their body provide a stark difference from yellow jackets, which have black and yellow stripes.

You can also pick out a paper wasp by their particularly long legs. Overall, their bodies can grow up to an inch long.

Hornets: Hornets have orange, red, or yellow coloring with white markings on their heads thorax and head.

Hornet has thicker midsections between the two segments of their bodies than yellow jackets or paper wasps. They can grow up to one-and-a-quarter inches long.

Yellow Jackets: Both their heads and bodies have black and yellow stripes, and are easily recognizable by their segmented bodies.

These are the smallest of the three listed species, only growing approximately to five-eighths of an inch in length.

Wasp Nests

The three main types of nests also have different preferences when it comes to where they nest and the types of environments that are best for taking shelter.

Paper Wasps: These common pests are scattered through the US and make their nests—as their name suggests—from paper created with deadwood and stem fibers.

Nests can also be found under the eaves of buildings or lower down to the ground, secured to larger, sturdier plants. They often appear like honeycombs more so than other nests.

Hornets: Hornet nests are very similar to those of paper wasps, but will be less likely to build them on human structures. Hornet nests are typically connected to sturdy plants both close to the ground and higher up.

Yellow Jackets: Though yellow jacket nests appear similar to hornets and paper wasps, they will have one opening that is typically hard to see at first glance, unlike the open honeycomb shape of the paper wasp nests.

These nests are also more commonly found in hollow areas of the ground or tucked into walls.

Dangers of Wasps in Your Home

Just because you spot a wasp in your home, doesn’t necessarily mean that they will automatically attempt to sting. However, since you’re likely to try and remove or kill the wasp, their aggressive nature can be dangerous once you begin to interact with them. 

If you encounter any form of a wasp nest in your home, it is best to call a professional for assistance before approaching the nest. We’ll outline DIY ways to handle a wasp infestation below, but it’s important to start off by knowing the risks of proceeding on your home.

Paper Wasps: Will most likely only sting if they feel something is threatening the safety of their colony. In these cases, paper wasps have been known to swarm.

Hornets: Like the other varieties here, they only sting when threatened by something nearby.

Yellow Jackets: Yellowjackets can unfortunately sting even when unprovoked. They are also capable of stinging more than once. 

Wasp stings can be extremely painful and irritating even if you do not have a serious reaction. Wasp stingers contain a small trace of venomous materials that can irritate the skin for up to a week.

Some people may have larger reactions that can lead to more extensive symptoms such as nausea and vomiting. In the most extreme cases, a highly allergic person may even experience anaphylaxis shock.

How Do Wasps Reproduce?

The reproduction rate of any home pest can help you determine how quickly it’s important to act. When a pest lays a large number of eggs in a short period of time, an infestation takes off far more quickly.

Paper wasps, hornets, and yellow jackets are all known as social wasps. This is in comparison to solitary wasps—which makes up a large number of the species who do not live in nests with a hierarchy. 

Eggs Hatch in the Spring

The reproduction season peaks in the spring when female wasps come out of hibernation and begin to lay eggs. Eggs and larvae will continue to hatch and grow throughout the spring season. This is typically when wasp nests will grow in size, especially as the rest of the hive of worker wasps build the nest and take care of the queen.

Because of this cycle, you are unlikely to find wasps in the winter months. This provides homeowners and exterminators a clear plan for eliminating wasp nests that could become dangerous as things warm up.

Wasps are Most Aggressive Late Summer

In late summer, especially as the season turns to fall, wasps are mostly fully grown and the females are preparing to mate before hibernation. This is when you are most likely to find wasps in inconvenient places. Because of this, wasps may be more aggressive or may pop up in places where you accidentally disturb them.

How to Prevent Wasps in Your Home

As is the case with any insect infestation in your home, when you know what attracts the pests, you can prevent them from discovering your house as a safe place of refuge. Here are the top things that attract wasps and how to ensure your home is protected against them.

Remove Additional Pests

Wasps feed off of a range of insects, so an abundance of other pests in your home can be the catalyst for a wasp infestation. Wasps will also look to the areas around your home, like your garden, so insect meals, so they may simply be in the vicinity of your space even if the inside of your home is clear.

For this reason, a healthy number of wasps are great for your outdoor environments, especially if you have an overabundance of certain bugs like cicadas. However, if it is easy to burrow or slip into your home for shelter and a larger meal, this is when your home can get into trouble.

Secure Your Perimeter

Above all, wasps need a safe place to hide and nest away from common predators. If your home’s walls, windows, doorways, and foundation have cracks or other easy entryways, wasps may make their way into your walls and living space.

This is especially threatening during the late fall months when wasps have mated and females begin to search for a safe place to hibernate and build a nest for the winter.

Meat and Sweets

Wasps will also seek out your own foods left out in the kitchen or barbecue area, especially if they are high in protein or sugar. This is particularly a summertime problem if you are grilling meat outside with your family. Wasps are attracted to the food but will be mistaken as predators, making the wasps feel threatened and at times, invoking them to attack.

Keep Natural Repellents on Hand

If you have a large number of wasps in your backyard, or if you’re worried about a wasp getting into your car, keep a few items handy that will repel the wasps without inviting an attack. These include:

  • A water-and-vinegar solution
  • Fresh spearmint
  • Citronella
  • Eucalyptus
  • Thyme
  • Lemongrass

Alter Your Garden

Wasps love brightly colored sweet-smelling flowers. By planting mint leaves or other wasp-repellent plants from the scents listed above, wasps may be deterred from congregating in your garden. You can even plan wasp decoys to keep the highly-territorial creatures from staking out your yard as their own.

How to Identify a Wasp Infestation in Your Home

A rogue wasp may make its way into your home by accident if a window or door is left open too long. Looking for a break from the heat or extreme weather, they may take shelter in the cracks of your home, leading to attics, basements, or even closets. 

If you want to investigate a wasp nest on your own, it is important to wear protective gloves, thick clothing, and face protection before getting close to the nest. Do not provoke or try to remove a wasp nest on your own without professional help. A developed wasp nest can contain thousands of wasps.

When you suspect a wasp nest in the spring, you are more likely to find a small, golf-ball-sized nest forming. Later-summer or fall nests can be much larger and can even be clear from great distances. 

Follow the flight pattern of wasps in your home and check corners, crevices, and under eaves for signs of a nest. Be sure to move delicately so that you do not disturb a potential hidden nest.

Removing Wasps Safely

Although professional care when handling wasps is always best, there are several store-bought wasp killers and repellents that can be used by homeowners.

For example, sprayable foams allow homeowners to cover a nest from a distance, encasing the nest in the poison without being too close to the nest itself.

Dust-based insecticides, on the other hand, act more slowly. This variety of wasp poison is ideal for nests burrowed in the ground. The poison is picked up by the wasps that collect food and is then spread throughout the hive.

How Not to Remove a Wasp Nest

There are several misconceptions about how to remove a wasp nest, many of which can hurt more than help. For example, do not attempt to remove a wasp nest by simply knocking it to the ground. By hitting the nest with a baseball bat or a stone, you are more likely to anger the wasps and encourage a dangerous swarm.

You should also never attempt to burn or drown a wasp nest. Both of these methods can result in damage to you or your home.

Professional Wasp Extermination

Calling a pest control specialist is always the best way to handle a wasp infestation. Even if you are in doubt about the location of your wasp nest, Terminix provides a free consultation to stake out and identify the size of your problem.

With local offices spread across the country, highly trained and certified wasp specialists can safely identify and remove wasps from your home. This method prevents harm from handling dangerous chemicals or from risking the chance of getting stung.

The Terminix pest-free guarantee is also one of the top providers in the industry, ensuring that they will take care of any additional wasps after our initial treatment free of charge for as long as you maintain the program.


Whether you’ve spotted a hornet, paper wasp, or yellow jacket in your home, give our caring and attentive team a call for efficient and comprehensive pest control care.

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