mother and her children outside blowing bubbles

Prevention tips for a sting-free summer

It’s beginning to feel a lot like summer: school is out and celebrations can be heard throughout neighborhoods everywhere. Graduation parties, birthday parties, pool parties, backyard barbecues…whatever the occasion, you want to make sure your guests have a great time. However, just before you make the celebratory toast, someone yells, “Ouch!”

Stinging insects are no joke. They can be territorial and aggressive, sending over 500,000 people to the emergency room each year. So what can you do when wasps, yellow jackets, and hornets invade? How can you keep the festivities going without worrying about potentially dangerous stings?

The answer is simple. Get an expert involved who will work with you to identify areas of concern, provide a safe solution, and establish a plan of action that will keep you and your family, friends, and pets safe all year long.

Relax pest-free, contact us today.

Where stinging insects build their nests

Often a homeowner will see a species of wasp or hornet and not know what they are dealing with. The infographic below shows you where stinging insects commonly build nests, which species are most aggressive, and what you can do to help keep them away from your home.

infographic about where stinging insects build their nests

5 stinging insects commonly found around homes

There are many different wasps and bees that are present around yards across the west coast. The most common types you’ll find include:

  1. Mud daubers (Dirt daubers) – As their name suggests, this species of wasp constructs its nest using mud. These pests are solitary and don’t require a large nest to house a colony, meaning their nests are quite small in size. Mud daubers are ½- to 1-inch long, are not aggressive and will only sting people if stepped or sat on. They build their mud nests in covered areas, such as on buildings, under decks and exposed stairs, in sheds, playhouses, and on swing sets. And, they primarily feed on spiders. To prevent mud daubers from taking up residence on your property, call a pest control expert to help reduce spider activity.
  2. Yellow jacketsYellow jackets are notorious for stinging people, even when unprovoked. With the ability to sting numerous times, they are especially dangerous. Measuring approximately ½-inch long, these stinging pests build their nests underground in small rodent holes, or in hollowed-out trees, attics, entryways, eaves, playhouses, and sheds. They construct their nests from tiny bits of chewed-up wood, giving the exterior a paper-mache-like appearance. To help prevent yellow jacket activity around your property, paint or seal all wood items such as siding, sheds, playhouses, patio furniture, fencing, etc. Also, keep grills clean and food inside. Yellow jackets are especially fond of meat. Keep a close eye on drinks too. In the fall they crave carbs, crawling inside soda cans to get a sip.
  3. Tarantula hawks – Measuring about 1½-inch long, tarantula hawks are a low-stinging threat. This species of wasp is solitary and does not have a colony. The female seeks out a tarantula or other large species of spider. Once her prey is found, she will paralyze it with a sting, drag it to a shallow burrow, lay a single egg on it, cover it with dirt, and leave – her job is done. When the egg hatches, the spider will be its first meal. To prevent tarantula hawks from invading your outdoor space, reduce any hiding areas around your yard that tarantulas and other large spiders may find appealing.
  4. Paper waspsPaper wasps get their name by building their nests using cellulose fibers. They can be nearly an inch in size (⅝- to ¾-inch long). Not as outwardly aggressive as some stinging insects, they will still defend their umbrella-shaped nest if it is being threatened. Their paper nests are open, revealing chambers where eggs are laid. You may see nests hanging from the exterior light fixtures, branches of trees and shrubs, porch ceilings, the tops of window and door frames, soffits, eaves, attic rafters, under decks, playhouses, sheds, and other sheltered places. Prevent colonies from growing in size by having the nest safely removed by an expert at the first sign of activity.
  5. Bald-faced hornets – Extremely territorial, bald-faced hornets aggressively defend their nest and are known to chase people for long distances to keep them away. Approximately ½ – ⅝-inch long, bald-faced hornets build large, enclosed paper nests in trees, shrubs, sheds, overhangs, utility poles, and other objects that are at least three or more feet off the ground. Their nests can grow to the size of a basketball. If you have a nest on or near your property, you may not have hornets coming back to the same nest year after year. They build a new nest every year. Summer is when populations peak and sting risks increase. Prevent attracting bald-faced hornets by keeping grills clean – they are attracted to meats. Also, ensure anything made from wood such as siding, sheds, playhouses, patio furniture, fencing, etc. is sealed or painted.

Keep a lookout for stinging insect nests and call a pest control expert if you see any signs of one. Early detection can help prevent colonies from taking over your yard and reduce the risk of being stung.

When stinging insects are most active

While stinging insects become active in the spring and early summer, they are most active in late summer and fall, when their food reserves are in short supply. Stinging insects such as yellow jackets and bald-faced hornets begin to scavenge for alternate food sources, which can lead to major conflicts with human activities and disrupt outdoor gatherings.

TIP! Stinging insect traps can help deter wasps and hornets from coming after your food by offering an alternative source. Once in the trap, they’ll be unable to fly out, reducing your chances of being stung.

multi-generational family grilling in a backyard

10 ways for you to prevent encounters with stinging insects

  1. Seal any cracks or gaps around your home where hornets or wasps could enter. 
  2. Keep food and drinks covered, especially when outdoors. 
  3. Avoid wearing strong fragrances. 
  4. Wear shoes that cover your feet.
  5. Repair tears in screens and try to keep doors closed.
  6. Check trees, bushes, and shrubs before trimming or picking fruit.
  7. Seal or paint untreated wood.
  8. Keep grills clean.
  9. Ensure garbage bags are tied or lids fit tight.
  10. Clean up food or beverage spills right away.

Keep stinging insects out of your home

At the end of fall, reproductive female wasps and hornets will seek out shelter to survive cold winters. To prevent overwintering female hornets or wasps from getting inside the wall voids of your home, seal any cracks or gaps in the siding and around windows, pipes, etc.

TIP: If a stinging insect does build a nest in the wall voids of your home or if you suspect one has, do not seal the hole. Some stinging insects will attempt to chew their way out, which can cause additional damage to your home. Call an expert to see what your options are. 

Enjoy your yard and stay safe from stinging insects. Contact Western today!

mother and her children outside blowing bubbles

Tiffany Tenley

As a Marketing Content Manager, Tiffany has come to love and appreciate the diverse and complex world of pests—good, bad and ugly. Not only does she research and write about them, she admits to having eaten a few crickets on some cheese-laden nachos. When she's not working, Tiffany enjoys spending time with her family, exploring new restaurants, concert-going, reading, writing and traveling.

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