Early Season Wasp Management

With warming weather, many insects are beginning to emerge from winter dormancy. New queen paper wasps produced the previous fall will begin to emerge in spring to search for nesting sites. When attempting to manage paper wasps in homes and other human spaces, we often start to think about managing them when populations are already annoyingly high and when management is more challenging. The earlier we think about managing paper wasps, the more likely we are to remove issues with minimal effort.

The first option in dealing with paper wasps is to simply tolerate them. Paper wasps are rarely aggressive and small populations and nests can be tolerated if they are not present in highly trafficked areas. When paper wasps are seen flying around humans and human structures, it is more likely that they are looking for food than they are exhibiting aggression. More care can be given if individuals in and around the home are known to have allergic reactions to stings.

There are many types of paper wasp traps that can be placed near structures to capture early-season queens before they begin to create new nests. This can also limit the number of new wasp nests and adult wasps seen that year. Effectiveness can vary, however, because commercially available attractants seldom attract every species of paper wasp seen in the landscape.

If nests are noticed, it is best to remove them early in the season when they are small and before queens start to produce more wasps. Scout for wasp nests regularly as temperatures begin to warm. If any wasps are physically seen on these small nests, that individual can be destroyed with the nest. It’s notable that if a small nest is removed but the queen producing it isn’t removed with it, she may begin to recreate the nest. The quickest way to limit growth of the nest is by safely destroying the queen with the nest’s contents.

Hanging artificial nests has not been shown to be an effective way at managing wasps. It is better to utilize the methods above for early season management.

If you would like your wasp identified to species for a better selection of available traps or for specific management recommendations, contact the Iowa State University Plant and Insect Diagnostic Clinic.

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