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Stung by the Queen

You may feel satisfied when wasps wander into your wasp trap, but you are killing only a small percentage of the pests. Don't be fooled and don't be stung. Focus on killing the nest.

Traps will kill only a small percentage of wasps in autumn. Focus on killing the nest. If it is in a hazardous area, kill it. If not, let frost kill it.

Do you remember the classic movie, The Sting? Robert Redford and Paul Newman played the role of con men that tricked a rich, shady businessman and stole his money. The guy was totally fooled. He was “stung.”

There is another type of sting operation going on now. Wasps are getting aggressive. Their populations are rising and they are looking for food. These pests—and their stingers—are creating fear and pain across the state.

Some of us will respond to this threat by putting up traps. Wasps wander into these baited traps but can’t find a way out of them. The pests slowly die in the trap. I used to love watching wasps suffer and die in a trap. I felt smart and powerful!

Actually, I was being a fool. My trap was doing little harm to the nest. I was fooled—“stung”— by the queen.

Traps kill only a small percentage of wasps in autumn. There can be over 200 wasps in one nest. Traps kill some of these wasps, but the queen remains safe in the nest, raising a new generation of queens who will hibernate and create many more armies of wasps next year.

Don’t be fooled and don’t be stung, literally or figuratively. The wasps want food; don’t give it to them. Keep your garbage containers tightly closed. Be careful and tidy when eating outdoors.

Try to locate the nest and determine if the nest is a hazard or not. If the nest is aboveground (in a tree or wall crevice), you may shoot a wasp-killing, knockdown spray into the hole of the nest. If the nest is in the soil or hidden in a crevice, sprinkle carbaryl (Sevin) dust near or into the entrance. A disposable turkey baster works well to shoot the dust into the opening.

Kill wasps at night. Wasp are less active when temps are 50s or colder. Wear protective clothing. Left alone, wasp nests will die after a hard frost.

Written by Tom Kalb, Extension Horticulturist, North Dakota State University.  

Cranshaw, W.S. 2012. Nuisance wasps and bees. Fact sheet no. 5.525.Colorado State University Extension.

Photos were made available under Creative Commons licenses specified by the photographers: Eric, mangpages and beyond_the_sea01.

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