Buzzy Hell!
July 20, 2006 8:09 AM   Subscribe

What can I expect from living next door to a wasps nest as the summer progresses, and is there any humane way to get wasps to leave the nest etc. if they are already well established. More Inside...

I am in the UK lving in a typical Victorian Terrace. My next door neighbour who I ordinarily get on with very well has a wasps nest in the wall cavity above his back door.

No problem normally, just get the council out to kill off all the wasps, however my neighbour is also a Buddhist and wants to leave the nest alone in the hope all the wasps will die out by autumn/winter time.

Of course I respect his wishes, only problem I have with that is that I have a severe phobia of wasps, so I want to know realistically how big and busy (buzzy!) this nest is likely to get through the summer - our back window is only about 6 feet away from the nest and I want to leave it open but I feel very uncomfortable about doing so with this nest around.

Right now it looks like the wasps that are around a fairly newly hatched as they are small and there are relatively few of them but I have a feeling as summer progresses they are going to get larger and more numerous.

I've told my neighbour about my phobia and he does understand that if it starts to become a problem for me he will try and deal with it.

So anyway what I can I expect and just on the off chance does anyone know a way of dealing with wasps humanely?

Thanks a lot in advance.
posted by empedia to Home & Garden (23 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The way to get rid of wasps is to poison the nest. I understand your neighbor's religious concern, but wasps are dangerous. People have been killed after accidentally disturbing a wasp nest.

Bottom line: given the choice, I'm going to protect human life, not that of a nest of insects.
posted by deadmessenger at 8:19 AM on July 20, 2006

alot depends on the type of wasps as well. can you describe the nest or the wasps themselves?
posted by cosmicbandito at 8:24 AM on July 20, 2006

If he detaches the nest now, they will go elsewhere and build another one. If he waits, there's not much that's humane to be done. If you want to leave your windows open, you should invest in screens.

I have a "kill as little as possible" ethic - but wasps tend to be very aggressive. Not at all live & let live. I tolerate them just about everywhere, but not in my house, not in my mailbox, and not in the path in between.

Usually, I just take a long-handled broom and knock off the beginnings of a nest - or use a hose to wash it away. Late in the day, or in full dark is best.
posted by clarkstonian at 8:25 AM on July 20, 2006

I'm not sure if this helps, but I always use a rule that says if a nest is not in the way of where people go, leave it alone. When it is at risk of being accidentally disturbed by people who DON'T KNOW IT'S THERE, then it has to be removed.

I know of nothing 'humane' as far as moving a wasp nest.... bees are a different story.

Your Buddhist friend is kind, and his sentiments very admirable, but he is asking other people to assume an unknown risk if the nest is in a place of traffic and subject to disturbance. A sting is a life-or-death event to many allergic people, and here in the States, his awareness of and maintenance of a clear safety hazard raises his personal liability substantially. He is trading off fairness to the insects with his obligation to his fellow citizens.

You are to be commended on your willingness to consider tolerating this nest of which you have an understandable phobia. FWIW, it says to me that you are a good person. To often, folks just destroy life like that with no thought. (Why just last week on MeFi, some idiot in Texas allowed that he needed a hand gun because there were snakes there! Texans are much more poisonous than snake, IMO, and I can think of one in particular.... but I digress.)

The nest has to go. Maybe your Buddhist buddy can consider it 'promotion' to the next round of their existence.
posted by FauxScot at 8:30 AM on July 20, 2006

Niko Tinbergen (Nobel prize winner and a founder of Ethology ) wrote a wonderful pop-science book Curious Naturalists, a good portion of which recounts some of his studies of the life and habits of wasps (not, unfortunately, your kind of wasps: his writes about of bee-hunters and sand wasps).

Reading that -- or any other account of wasps accessible to a lay person) may give you a real appreciation for what wasps are (little machines) and how interesting their behavior can be. This understanding may help to replace your phobia with fascination, may transform the wasps' vague menace to an absorbing puzzle. If not, at least learning more about wasps would give you a better idea of the magnitude of the threat to you, and how best to counteract or minimize that threat.

In your situation, I'd surely be somewhat apprehensive, but I'd also be looking forward to hours of convenient-to-home wasp-watching.
posted by orthogonality at 8:32 AM on July 20, 2006

Response by poster: cosmicbandito : I think the wasps are just the common wasp which is prevalent here in the UK - they are not hornets or yellow jackets.

The nest is hidden inside the wall cavity so it would be next to impossible to actually remove it.

I am also a bit concerned for my neighbours 3 young children as I think it is going to be inevitable that at least one of them will be stung during the summer.

Anyone have any first hand experience of what to expect later in the summer - e.g. no. of wasps that might be flying around the nest - right now it only sreeems like 1 or 2 at a time and I'm very concerned that soon that'll turn into a swarm.

Great answers so far...
posted by empedia at 8:36 AM on July 20, 2006

I usually mark the nest with flagging tape, and inform my kids. From my experience, wasps will only sting you if you intrude on the nest or if they get caught in your hair or clothing. They are very good for your garden, as they control many pests. When a wasp buzzes around you in circles, you may think it's angry. I don't buy that. Provided you are not near the nest, I think it's checking out smells, and orienting with polarized light, as bees do. I'm around them all the time--I even let them feed from my dinner plate, and they never sting. If you want to move them away, persistently reach your hand slowly towards them--they'll buzz in those crazy circles for a while, then get tired of moving away from your hand and fly off. They will not get "mad" and sting you. I know this would be difficult for you to do, but it's a step in making you at ease. If you thrash around, you are more likely to trap them in your clothing and be stung.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 8:49 AM on July 20, 2006

I doubt the nest will turn into a swarm, they don't get that big.

That said, one has to be aware of what attracts wasps, namely food and especially sweet stuff. Eating outside can become a problem (they might be attracted to popsicles that the kids are eating, for example, or to a can of soda). Make sure that garbage is kept in closed bags or bins. That should help keep them away.

Another solution, is a wasp trap , which might keep the population in check and get rid of those that wander to your side of the fence.
posted by bluefrog at 8:59 AM on July 20, 2006

unless they are paper wasps, in which case they are not attracted to meat/sweets and are very docile. these guys won't go in a wasp trap, but then again there's little reason to want them to.
posted by joeblough at 9:01 AM on July 20, 2006

In the states anyway there are people who will show up, vacuum up the wasps into a chilled container (thereby killing or incapacitating them) and sell them to labs who extract venom for medical porpoises (after freezing them, killing them for sure).

This is arguably more humane than insecticide, and at least serves an additional life-saving or life-improving purpose instead of just killing them.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:12 AM on July 20, 2006

We've had people from the local university come & collect wasps before. Usually they'll only come if its an unusual variety though. One grad student was thrilled when he found out we had a bald faced hornet's nest... came out the same day we called. He wouldn't do a thing about our yellowjacket ground nests though.

Anyway, if UK common wasps are like US yellowjackets, they'll get worse through the summer, peaking maybe late august/early september. When they peak, they get quite aggressive, since they're looking for food to let the queen overwinter. We've had picnics swarmed by literally 20-30 yellowjackets within 5 minutes or so, with no visible immediate nests. When we've had nests that are around our houses, there tends to be a solid stream of wasps coming in & out from early August on.
posted by devilsbrigade at 9:29 AM on July 20, 2006

Unlike everyone else on her street in Austin, TX, my sister leaves her wasps nest alone, and the trees in her yard are the only ones on the block not infested with webworms. She stands out on the porch an they buzz at her while she drinks Topo Chico. She loves them.
posted by Sara Anne at 9:51 AM on July 20, 2006

Having been stung by wasps 3 times in the past 4 days, I would recommend getting rid of them. Every time the neighbors slam their door, they will disturb the nest. Mine were under the ledge of my pool and everytime I hit the edge (not knowing they were there), they would fly up and sting me (once on the eyelid), and they can sting multiple times, so it could seriously injure a small child. The OTC spray that I purchased encased them in foam, so you can't see them suffer. The can also recommended early morning or dusk as the best time to eradicate them.
posted by blackkar at 11:06 AM on July 20, 2006

I know this is AskMe, but I just want to point out that a certain Rapid Offensive Unit just made a really funny typo. Those are gonna be some pretty scary poisonous medical porpoises!
posted by nicwolff at 12:11 PM on July 20, 2006

You can propbably expect them to get more numerous and agressive by late August, and they will be attracted to sweet things like popsicles and watermelon (which often get eaten outdoors, especially by children) and meat (especially chicken).

We have yellow jackets in the region where I live, and I've been stung several limes in late summer while doing absolutely nothing to agitate them -- once I was just standing at a bus stop, and never knew the little bugger was there until he stung the back of my arm! I don't know what kind of wasps are typical in the UK, or how agressive they tend to be in general, but it's common for wasps to get more agressive in late summer and early autumn. At the very least, you probably want to invest in some window screens. Maybe your Buddhist neighbor will wise up once his children get stung repeatedly.
posted by Marla Singer at 12:20 PM on July 20, 2006

Medical porpoises, LOL!
posted by Marla Singer at 12:22 PM on July 20, 2006

I assumed the porpoise joke was on, um, porpoise.

My take is: explain to your Buddhist neighbor that you are sympathetic to his cause, but that the wasps pose a *danger* to you, and that if he wants to make sure they are not killed to protect you, that it's up to him to relocate them to a safer place.
posted by baylink at 12:29 PM on July 20, 2006

Your neighbor is very inconsiderate. He's making you suffer because of his religious convictions. If I were in your situation, I would be pissed.

Besides, they're frickin' wasps! Probably the least sympathetic of all common insects. Seriously, they're like neck and neck with the roaches.
posted by Afroblanco at 12:48 PM on July 20, 2006

You may need to also let your neighbor know that the queen will over-winter as mentioned above. Not only does he need to remove the nest, he needs to fix his wall.
posted by onhazier at 12:48 PM on July 20, 2006

The first noble truth is that life is suffering. Kill the little fuckers.
posted by ontic at 2:31 PM on July 20, 2006

As far as killing wasps, I don't use poisons, I use canola (rape seed) vegetable oil. I am sure most vegetable oils will work. Pour a couple of cups where it will run down onto the nest and it will die. The eggs/hatchlings will suffocate as the oil soaks through the nest and the adults who get the oil on their wings and legs will suffer great difficulty in getting around.

If you are trying to sneak this next destruction, it leaves no chemical smell.
posted by spartacusroosevelt at 2:43 PM on July 20, 2006

Response by poster:

Just as an update, I've spoken to my neighbour and he is entirely sympathetic to my predicament so we are going to see how aggressive the wasps get before making any final decision.

Thanks for all your comments and suggestions.
posted by empedia at 1:09 AM on July 21, 2006

I'm a little late to the party, and highly biased due to allergy. But KILL THEM!!

I'll be building one of these soon. (Via lifehacker)
posted by raider at 12:30 PM on July 26, 2006

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