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Chemical-Free Hand-in-Hand Combat with Wasps

 
wayne stephen
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I have developed a method for dealing with wasps that does not involve chemicals of any kind - even natural ones . I call it Hand-in-Hand Combat because it involves battle but with the intent on encouraging predatory wasps to live along side of us . Just not too close . It involves the killing of embryonic wasps at times but not the queens who produce them .

So , first we need to understand one thing about the life cycle of wasps . Wasps are either solitary or colonizing . Hornets and Yellow Jackets form colonies . Red Wasps and Mud Daubers are solitary wasps . They both build nests and strive to reproduce . They both sting largely to defend their larvae . For the purpose of this discussion though , the most important point is this : Only the queens survive the winter . Unlike bees , the colony does not over winter . Each spring the solitary queen begins the nest building and reproduction cycle anew .

The next thing to understand is the aggression potential of these wasps . All animals understand instinctively the risks of attacking another being . They will risk their own life and have built in calculators that weigh the risks . So , wasps are most aggressive when there are larvae in the nest and become increasingly aggressive proportionate to the number of young . This is predictable by the passing of the spring , summer , and fall seasons . As the season progresses the size and number of the larvae increases {and in the case of colonizing wasps - workers} and so does their aggression levels . They will almost never sting away from the nest except if one were to grab one or step on one accidentally . One exception where they become aggressive away from the nest is late in the season when they may defend a food source such as carrion or fruit . The hive at late season is busy producing queens to survive the winter . The metabolic needs of the last queens developing in the nests may trigger stings at the food source.

The goal now is to encourage wasps to build their nest on a maple branch at the bottom of your garden space and not under the eaves of your porch. The most effective time for you to encourage the queen wasp to do this is early spring . Observe their activity at this early point in their growth cycle . The lone queen chooses a spot and begins to build a nest . The easiest to deal with are the solitary paper and mud wasps . Solitary paper wasps build a honey-combed shaped nest dangling from what looks like a stick . Mud daubers build little mud tubes parallel to a flat surface . Simply take your hand or a stick and knock them down . Early in spring their will be no larvae and the queen still has time to move on and build a new nest somewhere else . The queens are not as aggressive at this point .

Colonizing wasps in early spring are a different story but still less agressive at this point . Bald-Faced hornets will build a dangling paper hive that increases in size and activity as the season rolls along . As new larvae hatch they will contribute to building the paper structure so the queen can focus on egg laying . But early in the spring the queen is just getting started , may be alone , and you can knock the nest down . If you notice activity from the downed hive stay away until it ceases . The wasps will not continue to nurture a paper hive on the ground . I recommend this for early spring only !

European Yellow hornets and Yellow Jackets will seek out spaces to build such as holes in trees and between logs on a wood pile . They like cracks and crevices and may seek out your home for these . Yellow jackets will move into gopher and mouse holes in the ground but they don't dig . These nests are trickier to spot in the early season . For weeks the only activity you will notice is that one lone queen going in and out bringing in protein for the larvae and paper pulp for the structure . You can deal with these nests by dismantling the structures . Knock down the wood pile . Dig up the mouse hole . The entry ways into your home are more problematic . The simplest solution is to seal the entry and fill the gaps . Be aware that there may be an alternate exit for trapped wasps that may lead inside your home . A large colony finding a way into your home is not the goal .The problem with spotting these wasp colonies is that often we do not see them until late season when there is busy activity at the nest entrance . Then things get dangerous .

I will end my suggestions for colony wasps at the early season mark . Although tearing apart a yellow jacket nest is effective at any point , my suggestion is to admit we lost the battle this year . Steer clear of the colony . Too dangerous . Realize that only a few queens from that hive will survive the winter . They do not reuse the nests the next year . They are not drawn to return to their birth sites . You will become that much more savy next year . There are numerous "natural methods" for coping with colony wasps on the net . I am not against those methods per se but I am proposing a 100% chemical free method here .

As far as dangling solitary wasps and mud daubers . I knock them down all season long . I use a long stick or broom handle late in the year . The wasp will likely sting only so many feet from the nest . They don't go on a rampage like killer bees . In my experience they abandon the downed nests quickly . I squish the nest and sweep it away . The queen will not be able to start anew after a certain point but they live multiple years . She will have a chance next year to find that maple tree away from the porch .

I have been rarely stung and have been swatting down these nests for years . I have only been stung when I did not see the nest and surprised the queen . So , I start demolishing nests early in spring . We have many species of wasps flourishing but none on my porch . Last summer I sat and watched a queen carrying lime green caterpillars to her young . She had them tucked alongside her abdomen and would enter the former hole of a carpenter bee she was borrowing . She would quickly depart . You could almost set your watch according to her return within a few minutes with another caterpillar . Each time I checked throughout the season she hard at work debugging some plant somewhere . This spring I was glad to see her or one of her daughters was back .

If you are allergic to wasps more than likely you are allergic to only one type . I would not risk it though . Get some other fool to practice this method for you . If you don't know any fools personally I will travel with a stick almost anywhere throughout the season . For a small fee and paid expenses . I accept paypal .
 
Matu Collins
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Great info and experience, thanks!

The paper wasps that I am dealing with build a dangling nest with open cells. I've seen big round nests with one hole open at the bottom but these are different. I think they are a colonizing type because you see more than one going back and forth to tend and build the nest.
 
wayne stephen
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Probably this wasp ? :

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polistes_annularis

 
John Polk
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With the mud daubers, I would think that if you were trying to get them to move under that maple tree, it might be a great help if you maintained a mud puddle under the tree - AND, made a concentrated effort to keep all sources of mud far from your porch. True?

 
wayne stephen
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John , I like that . When we say no to them we offer them a yes . Creating habitat for mud daubers . I find mud daubers nicer than red paper wasps any way .
 
Matu Collins
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The nests are similar to those but the insect looks more like this


I think it's polistes domunula, aka European paper wasp
 
wayne stephen
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A link to a site praising their beneficial predatory habits and how to build a box to nest them :

http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/insect/05611.html

Sounds like a slightly less agressive wasp than some .
 
Matu Collins
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It's a relief to know that they are less aggressive when they have less to lose. The ones we have are only aggressive if you get near their nest but there are lots of nests!

Most vespids/wasps eat caterpillars, these eat a wider variety of insects and this has helped them invade North America. It's a good strategy! They are considered an invasive species. I would like to encourage other wasps and discourage these if I can figure out a way. The false hanging nest is an interesting idea. The soda bottle traps caught zero wasps no matter where I put them or what I put in them.
 
Cj Sloane
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Does it seem like there are more this year?

I'm seeing way more buzzing insects this year. Either due to excellent weather or the fact that I am a new bee keeper & so I'm more prone to look around when I hear buzzing.
 
Matu Collins
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I have less this year because I'm trying to limit their options for building nests. Any structure or equipment in the sun is a potential nesting spot.

Lots of other bugs though!
 
John Saltveit
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Excellent information Wayne! I often shoot down the new nest with a spray of water after dark or near, sometimes with a flashlight. They're less aggressive after dark for obvious reasons. I got stung when I was accidentally digging in their ground nest when transplanting a rosemary plant. If you do get stung, get far away quickly, go inside and make sure all the wasps are off of you. Then take a shower. You still "smell" like aggression to the wasps and you could get stung again if you go back out there. I became less anti-wasp when I found out that since they are carnivorous, they don't eat your plants. They eat bugs that are trying to eat your plants.
John S
PDX OR
 
wayne stephen
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We have alot of wasps this year too . I believe the spring/winter weather pattern in the northeast and here was similar . The last two years were different. The overwintering queens will become active here at about 55-60 degrees . So , those first warm days they exit the safe place that sheltered them from the cold . Most queens do not survive the winter . This early exit puts them at risk . They begin to build nests and if a hard freeze comes through they will suffer . If the weather is a more consistent transition from cold to warm they will have a good start . This year was like that . If the spring comes early and stays warm they will have a larger population at summers end . Likewise if the winter is long they will have a shorter season to multiply . One thing to be aware of : the social colonizing wasps - yellow jackets and bald-faced hornets - can reach a population of 1500 hundred individuals all related to that first queen .
 
Cj Sloane
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wayne stephen wrote:One thing to be aware of : the social colonizing wasps - yellow jackets and bald-faced hornets - can reach a population of 1500 hundred individuals all related to that first queen .


So you're saying, destroying a few hives can have a great impact. We need someone to ping this thread in March!

Seems like I'm seeing more bald-faced hornets than normal which is a bit of a drag because they can be so aggressive in the fall. I even saw one hanging around my bee hive.

 
wayne stephen
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A video showing yellow wasps eating a drone :

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N7yRF6MwSO4

As I said , the aggression increases towards the fall . The wasps are in their "God Save the Queens" mode . I have heard stories of daring wasps wiping out entire bee hives and making off with the larvae . A beekeeper would have to validate that . They will also stake claim to hanging or fallen ripe fruit at this time and defend it . My experience is they just claim a few pieces and leave the rest to us . So , when I see a pear that has hornets or hornet chew marks I leave it to them . A small fee for all the caterpillers they ate for me.

{In the above video is there snow on the ground ? If so that validates the kamikazi outlook these wasps have in the late season}
 
allen lumley
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Cj Verde : I agree with the need for a reminder in march, many other forums and blogs seem to have a 'seasonal theme' a 'now is the time to get ready for-'

At the risk of raising someones blood pressure maybe one more Forum per forum group ? !! You propose it and I bet we get lots of seconds ! Big AL !
 
allen lumley
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O.K. Now, Lets have a nice straight line, Show of hands, how many looked at the 'Similar Threads' below, the multiple comments on wasps and bats was interesting,
and I get a perverse pleasure out of giving thumbs up to the Thread Extensions posted by the Grey Bars

Hey, that would make a great Avatar name for these pagers " They call me Mister Grey- Bar !!! "
 
Cj Sloane
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allen lumley wrote:Cj Verde : I agree with the need for a reminder in march, many other forums and blogs seem to have a 'seasonal theme' a 'now is the time to get ready for-'

At the risk of raising someones blood pressure maybe one more Forum per forum group ? !! You propose it and I bet we get lots of seconds ! Big AL !

Chicken!

That would be a tricky one because the seasons are so location dependent!

Maybe Wayne can remind us when he kill his first hive in the spring?
 
wayne stephen
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Wayne qualifies for AARP in two weeks . He will have senior moments between now and March !

Until then : Within this post I would like to explore the ideas of creating habitat for more desirable wasps and nesting sites . I think we can agree that "less" aggressive is a desirable trait . Distance from human activity . Knowledge is power , so I would like to know where they are nesting - visibility being desirable . Would nuturing less aggressive wasps like mud daubers give them a competitive edge over yellow jackets ?

Johns idea of a mud bath is great . If you placed posts around the mud that might suffice for the dauber . It could be a pond instead of a puddle .

One thing I noticed last fall . Yellow jackets were very busy on the leaves of a hackberry tree . At first I thought they might be attracted to sap . The leaves had the tell tale signs of a scale insect invasion . I believe the wasps were ridding the tree of those .

Solitary wasps will move into mason and carpenter bee holes . That might be good for your solitary bee population . Force the bees to make new holes and avoid parasites and fungal diseases . Bad , I guess , if the wasps kill them in the process .
 
wayne stephen
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Heres the wiki on mud daubers :

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mud_dauber

So , they will not do much for your garden except to rid it of spiders . Maybe not a good idea . THe metallic blue ones will feed primarily on black widows . So , keep a few around your home . Oh , and don't let them near your jet aircraft if you have any !
 
John Saltveit
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Umbelliferous plants (think carrot, parsley, fennel) are host to parasitic wasps. I have been growing them for years to keep down the population of apple maggot and codling moth. These are tiny wasps that you can't see. They lay eggs inside larger insects. I have been growing earth chestnut (Bulbia or something like that is the genus). They make an edible nut/tuber underground. In my yard they actually will multiply into other patches. They also attract other garden positive insects, like hoverflies, minute pirate bugs, lacewings, and of course, the grand mommy of them all, ladybugs. Keeping these good guy insects in our yard is a great deterrent in general for other bugs that do things we don't like. I am not sure exactly how much the parasitic wasp attacks the wasp, but inquiring minds want to know.
John S
PDX OR
 
Cj Sloane
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John Saltveit wrote:Umbelliferous plants (think carrot, parsley, fennel) are host to parasitic wasps.


I am doing those plants, plus dill which fits in that category.

There's some interesting discussion on fennel in this thread where it is supposed be invasive/allelopathic. Invasiveness may depend on location.
 
John Saltveit
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It can be both. I like self seeding vegetables, because then I don't have to plant them again. Also, I get to eat lots of them. There are no thorns, so it's not hard to kill.

I don't recommend it for in the raised beds, because it can have minor allelopathic reactions to other vegetables. I think it should be out amongst the fruit trees and bushes. I think it's great to have vegetables that you can just grab and eat while in your garden that taste good, like parsley. I read a scientific survey of Americans eating vegetables. The number of males in between 21 and 65 who eat the US governments minimum daily requirement of vegetables: 0 per cent. That's correct, statistically 0 per cent. I am less than 1 out of 100.
John S
PDX OR
 
wayne stephen
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Seasonal Update : Spring is approaching and now is a good time for some clean-up. I am scouting the eaves , walls , rafters , etc. of my home and outbuildings for last years nests. Knocking them down. This way I know when a queen is settling in to her new home. I am sure that the wasps are already busy in the southwest U.S. ?
 
I agree. Here's the link: https://richsoil.com/wood-heat.jsp
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