Blog : Fall is Still Active Season for Wasps

By Craig | Oct 5, 2015 | in

At a family outing to a nearby apple orchard they swarm around crushed apple cores, spilled cups of cider and sticky trash bins. Even with autumn’s crisp evening air, wasps are still active.

Already this fall Tom Pray, of Ecotech Pest Services in Eliot, Maine, says there have been a number of reports regarding large wasp nests both inside and outside of homes, with nests growing to the size of volleyballs and hanging like a paper lantern under an eave or porch.

"Last year we had a bumper crop of bald face hornets and wasp nests. We're probably seeing the result of that," Pray said. "All those nest sites last year created new queens for this year, so a large number of them survived last winter, built large nests during the summer and seek warmth as the weather cools again."

Homeowners can take some minor precautions themselves by walking their property both inside and out to check for nests, which remain active until mid-November.

Each of the varying wasp species, over a dozen in New Hampshire, have a favorite place to build, which is why many homeowners find nests in the ground, hanging from a tree and hidden in the wall or attic of a house. If a homeowner, or business owner, finds a nest on their property Pray insists they call him instead of taking matters into their own hands with over-the-counter insecticides.

"People shouldn’t go after a nest site with a can of Raid, that’s like bringing a knife to a gun fight. You have to be really close when you set that off and they will come after you," he said.

Pray added that wasps will often post guards outside a nest site that will attack if a nest is disturbed even slightly.

Different species of wasps, build nests in a variety of locations. The "paper" nest is the most commonly seen. Circular in shape and grey in color these nests feel like papier-mâché and are often found hanging under decks, rooflines and tree branches. But the wasps that build inside a home's wall cavity can be particularly dangerous if unchecked.

"In the case of nests in the walls of homes, I have seen many homeowners make matters worse when they try to treat the nest themselves and it backfires, badly, then the yellow jackets enter a home in large numbers," said Pray.

Each nest creates a brood of several hundred new queens that will hibernate for the following year. As colder weather sets in, queens will move away from nest sites in search of heat. Queens living in nests in wall voids and attic spaces will emerge from wall sockets, recessed lighting or other cracks in the sheetrock as homeowners increase the heat to the primary rooms of their home.

Pray recounts one client with a nest in the cavity of their bedroom ceiling. The nest went undiscovered and fell through the bedroom ceiling in the middle of the night. Often it's the German yellow jacket building in the wall void of a home, wrapping sheet rock into their nest, weakening the wall or ceiling, all it takes is someone tapping at the wall area of the nest to release them into a room.

"People will make the mistake of thinking that the wall is being invaded and they will plug the holes to stop yellow jackets from coming in when in fact they are already living there and have been for months," said Pray. "If the hole is plugged, it traps the wasps in the wall and they start crawling around looking for a place to get out."

Should a homeowner discover a nesting site, Pray says to leave it alone and call Ecotech. Once a nest site has been treated, anything alive in the nest will be dead within 24 hours. After that period of time homeowners can remove the nest themselves without fear of being stung. If, however, a homeowner discovers there is still activity in the nest, Pray will return for additional treatment. This is a rare occurrence, but Ecotech errs on the safety of the homeowner and would rather a professional handle the task.

"People just need to be weary of that spot and they can call us and we can take care of it," said Pray.

All of Pray’s treatments are environmentally friendly; one of the reasons Ecotech is a Business Partner with the Green Alliance. Pray's treatments are designed to reduce the rapid growth of nesting sites he has seen this season, and ensure the growth doesn’t continue to spread.

"That is precisely one of the things we prevent by doing that exterior service,” says Pray. "When we do the second service at the end of the summer we're looking for nests on the property to make sure this problem isn’t there."

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