Wasps are most active in the warm summer months. In the UK, the Common Wasp and German Wasp cause the most annoyance and painful stings. Even with their special yellow and black body, they can still be confused with hornets or bees. Although hornets are not as common in this country, they can still bite and sting you.
Only female wasps have a sting, which they can use repeatedly if they feel under threat. In most cases a wasp sting causes no long term harm, but it can be life threatening if you are allergic to stings. Treating a wasp nest is often the most efficient way to control a wasp problem and reduce the threat of stings.
Wasps can build nests outdoors under eaves or, if they can gain access, they can find sheltered areas inside your home, such as wall cavities, roof spaces and attics. If a nest is discovered in early spring, removal using DIY products may be possible but the danger from stings will remain.
Wasp, Hornet and Bee Species
There are hundreds of species of wasps, hornets and bees found around the world, but only a few of these are seen as real pests here in the UK. Some of them do not sting. Some species, like the Honey Bee, are actually a valuable part of our ecosystem. Understanding their habits, lifecycle and appearance can help to identify the best form of wasp control for your home or business.
These are the two most commonly found wasp species in the UK and the ones responsible for causing painful wasp stings. Once indoors, they prefer to build nests in sheltered locations with easy access to the outside, such as lofts, garages and wall cavities. Outside they may nest in old rodent burrows, hollow trees and bushes.
Wasps have much less hair on their bodies than bees.
Wasps have a tighter waist between the thorax and abdomen than bees.
Wasps are sometimes mistaken for hornets as they are similar in appearance, but wasps are smaller in size.
Wasps have distinctive yellow and black markings on their bodies.
Yellow and black body marking varies according to species.
They have three main body parts; the head, thorax and the abdomen.
Workers vary in size from 12 - 17mm.
Only young Queens survive over winter and emerge in the spring to start nest building and lay eggs.
Workers (sterile females) emerge during early summer and take over nest building.
Only female wasps sting and can do so repeatedly.
Queen continues to lay eggs throughout the summer.
New queens and males mate in early autumn.
Nest dies during winter, including all the males and workers.
Wasps do not swarm.
Food preferences - will take insects and sweet foods.
Females sting readily and repeatedly.
A colony may have as many as 25,000 individual wasps.
If you are experiencing high numbers of wasps in your home or garden there is likely to be a nest nearby, either in your property, in your garden or very close by on a neighbours property.
A mature nest in summer can contain thousands of wasps.
You should not attempt to treat a wasp nest if you are sensitive to stings. If you disturb a nest, you may provoke the wasps inside to attack and sting you as a form of defence.
Peskill offer a professional wasp nest treatment service to protect you from harmful stings by eliminating the nest.
All our wasp control technicians are fully trained and equipped with all necessary safety equipment to complete the treatment quickly and safely. We follow strict guidelines to ensure you and your family are safe from harm during treatment.
Nest removal - We can also arrange for the removal of a nest. This will need to be done at least 48 hours after the initial treatment to allow for foraging wasps to return to the nest and become contaminated, thus wiping out the nest. This will incur an additional charge. However, removing the nest may not be possible if it's within a cavity wall or similar enclosed location.
If you wish to remove the nest yourself, it would be better to wait till late autumn before attempting this. Ensure you wear protective clothing as the treatment may still be active within the nest.
Wasps make their nests from chewed wood pulp and saliva, giving them distinctive papery walls.
Nests are usually built in sheltered spots with easy access to the outside. You can often find wasp nests in wall cavities, roof spaces, under eaves, in bird boxes, sheds or garages.
Often, you won't see the nest because it is situated in an inaccessible place. Therefore, to locate a nest, carefully watch the flight path of the returning wasps, this becomes easier later in the summer as the numbers of wasps increase.
At first, a wasp nest will start off very small. When a Queen wasp starts to build a nest in spring it is usually about the size of a walnut or golf ball. However, during the course of the summer, the nest will grow rapidly in size, as the number of wasps increase. A nest can become the size of a football, or even bigger in some cases.
It is possible to confuse wasps with bees. However the treatment available for a wasp nest and a bee hive differ.
Bees are not protected by law but they are vital to our ecosystem and therefore Peskill will only treat a bee hive if it poses a significant threat to people nearby. Peskill will only treat a bees nest as a last resort and with honey bees, only after contacting a qualified bee keeper.
Treatments for a wasp nest are far more common and can be carried out professionally by Peskill safely and quickly.
Removing a wasp nest can be very dangerous. Wasps inside the nest will feel threatened and often become aggressive. This could cause them to sting you and others as they defend their nest and young.
To get rid of wasps you do not need to remove the nest, but you do need to treat it and the nesting wasps.
To reduce the risk of stings to you and your family, arrange for a professional wasp nest treatment. This effective solution will eliminate the wasps and keep you safe from the threat of stings.
A mature wasp nest that is only discovered in late summer will almost certainly require professional treatment due to the high risk of wasp stings. By this stage, a nest may contain thousands of wasps.
The location of a nest in your property, or nearby, is usually the reason why you have a wasp problem.
If you can get rid of the nest early on in the spring, you can really help to avoid a serious problem in the height of summer.
You should only attempt to use DIY products under the following conditions:
- if the nest is small, on your property and easy to access.
- if you discovered the nest in early spring and the nest is still small (size of a golf or tennis ball).
- if there is minimal wasp activity around the nest.
- if you are NOT allergic to wasp stings.
- If the nest is within a wall cavity or similar enclosed space it may not be possible to remove it at all.
The same nest is never reused by a new queen the following year. However, a new nest may be built in the same location, if it continues to offer shelter, protection and easy access to the outside.
Secure bins - Ensure outside bins have tightly fitting lids. Keep bins at a distance from doors and windows so wasps are not attracted to the contents.
Keep windows and doors shut to prevent wasps entering inside your home.
Keep safe - If you have spotted a nest, make sure you keep children and pets away from the area.
A sting by a wasp is a painful experience. It can be very upsetting and frightening, especially for young children. They can also be life threatening to people allergic to the poison in stings. This allergic reaction is known as anaphylaxis.
People who have been stung several times previously and have become sensitised are more likely to suffer this systemic reaction.
Fortunately this type of allergic reaction is rare and it is even rarer for it to be fatal.
Preventing Wasp Stings
A wasp sting is a form of defence. If wasps feel threatened or if their nest is disturbed they become very aggressive and this provokes them to sting. In spring wasps hunt aphids, greenfly and other insects to feed grubs in the nest. At this time wasps will only become aggressive if they think their nest or their young are under threat.
Towards the end of the summer wasps have no young to feed so they get no sugary secretion. This is when they seek fermenting fruit and sweet things and become more of a pest outdoors.
There are some simple, practical things that you can do to try and avoid being stung.
- Do not panic - If you find there are wasps nearby keep calm and move slowly away.
- Do not scream, flap your arms or swat them as this will just agitate them and make them more aggressive.
- Avoid bright colours as wasps are attracted to bright colours
- Avoid uncovered bins and other areas where wasps gather looking for food.
- Avoid open drinks - If drink cans or bottles are left unattended, it may encourage wasps to crawl inside. Always keep food and drink covered when eating outdoors to deter wasps.
- Keep clean and ensure children's hands/faces are cleaned after eating sweet foods and drinks.
It is difficult to know how you might react to a wasp sting, if you have never been stung before.
Below are some practical things you can do if you are stung by a wasp: Use a cold compress such as an ice-pack or cold flannel.
Take painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen to soothe any pain.
Take antihistamine tablets to reduce any small localised swelling around the sting.
If you are in any doubt about a wasp sting please consult a doctor or medical professional.
In extreme circumstances, an allergic reaction, anaphylaxis can occur when someone becomes sensitised to the poison in the sting. It is a rare reaction but can be fatal.
If someone has the following symptoms after being stung, you should immediately call for an ambulance:
- difficulty breathing
- nausea or diarrhoea
- feeling faint or dizzy
- swollen face or mouth
- problems swallowing