Wasps: What they're good for and how to get rid of them

Searching for explosives, nectar production, drug detection - wasps can actually do a lot of things. If you still don't like them, you can learn here how best to lure them elsewhere.

Wasps: What they're good for and how to get rid of them

What are wasps good for? They sting very badly, disturb us during our summer barbecues and can quickly cause panic at the breakfast table. Before we ask ourselves why nature has thought up such creatures at all: Wasps are actually quite useful. After all, they keep pests out of our gardens, pollinate flowers and blossoms and thus support the ever fewer honeybees in their work. Apropos: the so-called honey wasp actually produces nectar with which it feeds its larvae.
Wasps are also better at detecting drugs and explosives than dogs. I beg your pardon? Correct, US researchers have found that wasps can be trained to target explosives and drugs in just five minutes.

However, since the average citizen doesn't need trained wasps seeking explosives for his front garden, but rather wants to know how to get rid of these pests, we've collected the most important information for you. We clarify all myths around the black-yellow striped insects and show you what really helps against wasps:

What is it that attracts wasps?

Wasp on old fruits in the garden

At the beginning of their life cycle, wasps are attracted to protein-rich foods such as meat and fish. They find spicy-scented BBQ meats particularly delicious, just like humans, and feed their larvae with the protein of meat and fish.

As wasps approach the end of their life cycle, they are attracted by sugary foods such as cakes, lemonade, and fallen fruit. The sugar gives them energy, and some sugar supplies are taken along to help the queen wasp survive the winter. Flowery-sweet scents also attract wasps. That's why it's important to always cover your lemonade glasses and keep the garden table clean at all times.

Wasps being attracted by bright colors is only a rumor. Wasps simply rely on their sense of smell during the hunt for food. 

How long do wasps usually live?

Yellow Jacket on dwood

The common Yellow Jackets and German wasps that are very common in North America live on average 22 days. Only the fertilized wasp queens survive at least one winter, provided their shelter protects them to build their next state in spring.

Wasps are most active at particularly warm temperatures. At cool temperatures, they retreat. One more explanation why they prefer to bother us in warm barbecue weather. 

Why do wasps sting?

Unlike bees, wasps are comparatively aggressive animals, especially when they approach the end of their life cycle. Although wasps only sting when they feel threatened, this happens relatively quickly. Also mean: In contrast to bees, wasps can sting several times. Good to know, though: Bee venom is sometimes 10 times stronger than wasp venom. However, wasps are scavengers and can, therefore, transmit germs during stings.

Maya the Bee: Bee or Wasp?

Bee Toy

"What a pointless question!" some people will think. "Would she be Maya the Bee if she weren't a bee?" In fact, Maya the Bee is neither a wasp nor a bee. Only wasps have the black-yellow stripes typical for Maja - bees, on the other hand, are brownish-black in color. Maya the Bee has only two wings, bees and wasps have four. But since Maya the Bee also has hair on her head and can speak, this question is probably over anyway.

How can I sooth the pain after I've been stung by a wasp?

Lemons and a juice press

Even if one does not suffer from an allergy, wasp stings are very painful. To fight swelling, itching, and pain, there are many great home remedies, but unfortunately also many myths.

You definitely should not try to suck the wasp poison out of the sting. This way, the poison only gets into your mouth and pharynx. Better: Use a suction stamp to squeeze the poison out, as this will work like an inverted syringe. Suction stamps can easily be found in your local pharmacy. Also helpful: press a washcloth with hot water onto the corresponding area of your skin. The heat ensures that the protein coagulates in the poison and thus cannot develop its full power. However, the water should be around 50° C for this, which some people may also experience as painful. 

Lemon juice, acetate or vinegar compresses, lukewarm salt water and buckhorn juice also help against pain and itching. A sliced onion placed on the wound also has strong anti-inflammatory effects.

In the pharmacy, there are many medicines and anti-inflammatory ointments, not only for allergy sufferers. We can also recommend to mix some sugar with saliva, apply the mixture to the stitch and rub until the sticky layer is dry. If a swelling has already formed, cooling envelopes can provide relief. 

Can I outrun a wasp?

Woman running on a lawn

Great idea, but unfortunately no. Healthy, young average people manage a speed of up to 24 kilometres per hour during a sprint. Wasps, on the other hand, can handle up to 48. However, it may still be worth a try.

How can I keep wasps away?

Lavender bush

Burned coffee, basil bushes, clove oil, copper coins - there are many myths circulating with how wasps can supposedly be deterred. But the truth is that wasps are least interested in humans when they have nothing to offer in terms of smell. This means that it is best not to let fallen fruits accumulate in the backyard. After eating, clean the table and remove used dishes as quickly as possible. Cover your drinks with a beer mat, newspaper or the like, wipe your mouth after eating (especially that of small children) and if you can't eat at all: maybe you'd better go back inside for the main course. Fly screens and nets are ideal if you want to enjoy fresh air in your house without being pestered by a wasp. 

If wasps find a better source of food in the vicinity, they theoretically quickly distance themselves from your Barbeque party. However, they will remember if there is good food on the compost next door. Thus, they will come more regularly and invite other wasps to join, so that you will actually achieve the opposite effect.

What is true, however, is that wasps do not like the smell of many essential oils. Lemon balm, lavender bushes or candles with peppermint oil are therefore helpful to stop the wasp invasion.