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|Wasps! Yellow Jackets!
Hornets! Oh MY!!!
Once warm weather hits in the Spring, many people are alarmed when they see wasps, yellow jackets, or hornets flying around the garden. These creatures are actually considered beneficial for gardeners. Yes, I did say beneficial insects, since these creatures pollinate flowers and eat catepillars and other pest larvae. I know, they can sting awfully bad, and many people are seriously allergic to their venom, but let's not go into that, shall we? (Once I was stung 29 times on my arm by a hornet when I lived on a farm & was moving some hay bales! OUCH!) I have personally witnessed a hornet attack an inch-worm (that was menacing an ear of corn my corn plant), kill it, then dissect it and take it back to the nest for munching. Now that's what I call a good friend! I've even seen hornets go after slugs!
However, these creatures can make major pests of themselves if they try to build their nests by your home, either above the door, under the eaves, or in the ground. Although I do tolerate, even welcome, these creatures in my garden, I just won't put up with them if they claim ownership of my house! I have heard anecdotal stories that tacking dryer fabric softener sheets under the eaves will repel any nest building scouts, but, I really don't think this trick would be very attractive. So, I've found that the most effective way to keep nests from being built is a twice-weekly patrol around the house - sometimes more often, if necessary. Any nest that I see getting started is immediately blasted down with a strong jet of water from the high-pressure attachment on my hose. If you do this frequently enough, the nests won't be big enough for the wasps to try to defend - they'll just fly off & try in a new location. Eventually, they move on to someplace other than your home.
What about flying creatures that bother you in the garden? Well, I've had to learn to NOT wear dresses or anything with flowers/flower colors, or patterns. The less I look like a flower, the less likely wasps will bother to check me out. For the most part, if I just go on about my business, the wasps & hornets go on about theirs. Considering that I was once terrified of these creatures (remember the 29 stings!), the fact that I now calmly garden side by side with these creatures is nothing short of amazing. If I can do it, you probably can, too! They seldom ever sting people unless you really do something to "deserve" it, like stepping on them or accidentally smashing their nest or something. If I discover that an area of the garden I want to work on is really buzzing with activity, I usually just go work elsewhere until the creatures have dissippated.
Something to be aware of is that wasps/hornet/yellow jackets in the garden are often attracted to meat smells. Outdoor BBQ's, snacks, trash cans and pet food are just too irrisistable to these creatures. Keep this in mind. And VERY IMPORTANT - watch your drinks in the garden!!! Unless you're just sipping water, these creatures are going to be lured to your drink. Even diet sodas are attractive. These creatures will climb inside your drink (even a can) to see what smells so lovely. If you aren't careful, you'll accidentally end up with one in your mouth. A wasp/hornet/yellow jacket sting in your mouth can be fatal. Please be careful!
Do you notice a dramatic increase in wasps, hornets, and yellow jackets in the Fall? If so, you are in good company. Fall is the time of year when these beneficial insects go into high gear. In the Fall, many of these creatures are very excited from all the ripe fruit they are finding around them. They are busy taking it back to their nests, because that's the time of year when many species are creating new queens and males. If at all possible, see if you can find a way to tolerate these insects. Once cold weather hits, almost all of them will die, anyway.
If you do feel you must eliminate them, rather than wait for them to die from cold weather (assuming you live where it gets cold), then I think the links below will be of help to you. If you decide to take action on your own, make sure you do it at night. Before you do anything, though, I hope you'll be able to determine if the insects in question are actually wasps/hornets/whatever that are even capable of harming people. Hover flies look like tiny hornets, and are sometimes the cause of unnecessary fear & panic for people. And yet, these creatures would never harm a human. Many small wasps do not have the kind of stinger that would hurt a person, nor would they be inclined to do anything to a person. Wasps have very rudimentary minds in many ways, and some of them are programmed only to target their natural prey.
I have provided you with some URLs that will help you better identify which insect you are dealing with, as well as any steps you may need to take for nest removal, if necessary.
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