How to Get Rid of Wasps and Hornets Naturally

wasp or hornet crawls back into gray nest hidden in bush

Treehugger / Jordan Provost

In my last post, I shared two reasons you may want to leave a wasp nest up in your yard or garden. However, there are a variety of reasons you may not want to do that, Our small backyard means that any wasp nest is easily disturbed — making for angry wasps, which can lead to stings.

First, you need to figure out if you have honeybees or a type of wasp or yellow jacket in your yard. (You can use this helpful tutorial from the Illinois Department of Public Health to figure out what you are dealing with.) If you do find that you have honeybees, and they are not in a location that's safe for you (or them), you can try to call local beekeepers, who may even remove them for free or for a small fee. Since our bee populations are in an alarming decline, doing what we can to protect them is a high priority.

But what if you need to get rid of wasps? Are there more natural ways to go about it? The pesticides used in most wasp sprays are strong enough that pets that eat the poisoned wasps (and some will) are at risk of death. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather not spray such a poisonous spray in my yard! (Note: If you were to use a typical wasp insecticide, professional insect control technicians tell us that most of us use way too much of the spray. A little goes a long way. And, also make sure that you thoroughly remove all dead wasps from your yard afterwards.)

gray hornet and wasps nest hidden in bush outside
A bald-faced hornets nest, tucked away in an evergreen shrub.

Treehugger / Jordan Provost

According to my research, I found the following solutions that are natural but effective. Most experts say you should thoroughly covering up to prevent stings (including wearing tight-fitting clothes, so they don’t climb into your clothing), and to treat the next at night or early morning when the wasps are sleepy. Covering a light source (such as a flashlight), with red paper will help prevent them from flying towards your light.

Warning

If you are allergic to wasp stings, encounter a nest in a hard-to-reach area, or feel for any other reason that it would be dangerous to self-treat a wasp nest, call an expert to do it instead.

Natural insecticide spray

EcoSmart’s Organic Wasp and Hornet killer uses 100 percent, food-grade ingredients, including peppermint oil. When reading over the instructions for use of this spray, you will see that you use this just like the typical poisonous spray, so if you want to simply treat the same way as usual but with a more natural spray, this may be your best bet. It will smell quite strong, like essential oils, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Killing with soap

a hose-end sprayer filled with soap and water is sprayed outside as wasp control

Treehugger / Jordan Provost

My friend Katie at Kitchen Stewardship tells how her husband got rid of a wasp nest simply using dishwasher soap and a hose-end sprayer!

Drowning an aerial nest

wasp nest
matteo sani / Shutterstock

Eartheasy.com gives the following instructions for drowning wasps in aerial nests:

“Aerial nests: Place a cloth bag over the entire nest and quickly tie it off at the top; as you draw in the tie, pull the nest free. The bag should be well sealed. Set the bag in a pail of water; drop a rock on the bag to keep it fully submerged."

However they caution against removing nests in walls or underground yourself, but suggest hiring a professional in these cases. You can read all of their ideas for natural wasp control here.

Hanging false nests

a fake hornets nest hangs outside house to prevent wasps and hornets from making real nest

Treehugger / Jordan Provost

Something else you can do to prevent a wasp problem is to hang a false wasp nest by your house (or wherever you want to deter them). There are a variety of products for this, some look very much like a paper lantern, and others look similar to a real nest, but they get good reviews online — even if they don’t work 100 percent of the time. They are supposed to work because wasps are territorial, and they won’t build next to another nest. Some even claim to have success by simply hanging up a brown paper bag!

Traps

DIY homemade wasps and hornets trap using sugary bait and a hanging plastic bottle

Treehugger / Jordan Provost

There are also a variety of glass wasp traps that many claim are helpful in reducing wasp populations in their area. The trick is to make sure you keep replacing the bait. And also, please consider using savory bait, such as tuna, as that will attract the yellow jackets and wasps, but not honeybees, which prefer sweet bait. These glass traps are very pretty, but you can also make your own inexpensive version out of any type of plastic bottle (soda pop bottle or water bottle). If you've got a cardboard box lying around, consider making this wasp trap below. The tiny, dark holes holes and food scents draw the wasps and hornets in. Once in the box, they'll naturally follow the light to the soda bottle above. Voila, trapped!

a homemade DIY wasp and hornet trap made out of old soda bottles and cardboard boxes

Treehugger / Jordan Provost