Have you discovered a wasp nest in your garden or around your house? Here you can read when you should remove or relocate the nest and how to proceed.
Anyone who discovers a wasp nest in the immediate vicinity of their home does not have to panic immediately – they can simply relocate or remove it if necessary. Many people find wasps very annoying because their stings, which they use to defend themselves when they think they are in danger, are not only very painful but can also trigger severe allergic reactions. However, before you take strict and often dangerous measures against wasp nests, you should know that almost all wasp species are under special protection and may not be fought on your own.
In addition, wasps are actually peaceful animals as long as you do not come too close to them. However, as soon as they become a danger, you should think about removing or relocating the wasp nest. However, you should not do this yourself, but get professional help, for example from a beekeeper or exterminator.
Wasps can be divided into the sub-orders of plant wasps, lace wasps, ichneumon wasps, gall wasps and stinging wasps with a poisonous sting. The wasps that gardeners are familiar with as intrusive visitors to a delicious piece of fruit cake and coffee are wasps from the wrinkled wasp family. These include, for example, the common wasp (Vespula vulgaris) and the German wasp (Vespula germanica). These two native wasp species prefer a protected nesting site, which is usually underground.
Wasps’ nests in the house and garden
A wasp nest in the immediate vicinity of a house or in an occupied garden often causes many problems. As wasps are protected by law, it is illegal to relocate or remove wasp nests without good reason. Only in an acute emergency – when the aggressive flying insects pose a justified danger – is the removal of the filigree nest permitted. In this case, you should definitely contact an exterminator and under no circumstances act on your own.
What happens in a wasp nest?
In the wasp nest, which only exists for one year, the so-called queen and her workers raise the young wasps. In the process, the wasps catch vast quantities of caterpillars and insects, which they transport into the nest through the small entrance hole to raise the young. The small hymenoptera can therefore also be regarded as gentle beneficial insects.
Once the nest is completely abandoned by the insects, they never visit it again. In contrast to the old queen and the orphaned workers, the young queen survives and hibernates in a place protected from the cold. After her winter rest, she flies off the next spring to find a new suitable nesting site for the coming wasp colony. From scraped wood fibres and with the help of their saliva, the insects begin to assemble a new nest from the small, typically pentagonal cells. Once the first workers have hatched, they take over the further construction of the nest, the search for food and the rearing of the larvae. In midsummer, a population can produce up to 7,000 animals. In winter, the entire colony dies off again, except for the young queen, and the cycle begins again the next spring.
Popular wasp nesting sites
Dry, darkened and wind-protected cavities are most often chosen by young queen wasps to build a new nest. Outdoors, wasps like to colonise abandoned burrows of mice and moles, for example. But old tree trunks, the tool shed, attics or little-used shutters are also chosen as nesting sites.
How can you live peacefully with wasps?
The wasps’ flying season begins in summer. However, a wasp nest in the garden does not necessarily have to become a problem then: A free-hanging nest is mainly colonised by short-lived colonies. If such a nest is located in an uninhabited part of your garden and there is a safe distance of at least six metres to the building, you can safely let the industrious insects live there in peace.
In order to ensure peaceful coexistence, you should avoid hectic movements and vibrations so as not to unnecessarily agitate the wasps. A fly screen prevents the animals from entering your house through windows and doors. In addition, make sure not to drink directly from open bottles and cups outdoors, as the animals like to crawl into the containers to get at the sweet contents.
Never approach the inhabited nest more than necessary, because wasps defend their nest and sting several times when danger threatens. When stung, the animals also emit signalling substances – so-called pheromones. These pheromones signal danger to the other wasps in the colony and attract them to help. Caution: These pheromones are also emitted by wasps that are already dead!
However, if the nest is in the immediate vicinity of the house, it should be professionally removed from the garden or relocated. In many cases, the voracious insects also damage wooden beams in the attic or feel threatened by the direct proximity to humans and thus behave conspicuously aggressive.
How can you remove a wasp nest?
In autumn, the wasp colony that has inhabited the nest over the summer dies out. Then the uninhabited wasp nest can be safely removed. However, if you do not want to wait that long, or if the wasp infestation is simply too great by then, you should consider professional removal or relocation. Never remove a colonised nest on your own! A local beekeeper or exterminator are the first people to contact when removing a wasp nest. If you are renting, you should inform your landlord about the existing danger. The landlord must pay for the costs of removing the insects.
Removal by a comb hunter
The removal of a wasp nest by a professional pest controller has many advantages: The professional can remove the disturbing wasp nest quickly, safely, routinely and in an animal-friendly manner, because the expert knows the wasps and their behaviour as well as the best treatment methods in detail. He also has the necessary protective equipment.
Free-hanging nests are usually removed completely. For wasp nests in niches or cavities, special chemicals are sometimes used. Insecticidal powders, for example, work by allowing the workers to ingest the poison into the nest and ensure that later returning animals and the larvae also die.
Professional pest control by an exterminator is more expensive than trying it yourself, but it is also more effective and less dangerous. For accessible nests, the costs are around 150 to 170 euros. For nests that are difficult to access, you can expect costs of up to 250 euros. It is usually possible to get a non-binding estimate.
Many exterminators also offer an emergency service at weekends and even at night to remove wasp nests – but this service is then associated with a small surcharge.
Fumigating wasp nests
Fumigating a wasp nest is a common method of completely destroying the home of a wasp colony, but it is strongly discouraged. On the one hand, the animals become very aggressive due to the smoke used, and on the other hand, the fire brigade often has to be called in: Wasp nests consist of a thin paper-like substance, so they burn very easily. The ignition of the nest can quickly and uncontrollably turn into an encroaching large fire.
In addition, it depends on the wasp species and the federal state whether you are allowed to fumigate them at all. For example, hornets – a genus of the wasp subfamily – may not be fumigated, as they are subject to special protection under the Federal Species Protection Ordinance. Anyone who destroys such a hornet’s nest must expect heavy fines of up to 50,000 euros.
If a hornet’s nest is in an unfavourable location or poses a threatening danger – for example, to someone suffering from allergies – the removal of the nest must be requested from the city or the responsible nature conservation authority. Only when the application is approved can the nest be removed by a specialist responsible for this.
Wasp spray and wasp foam
There is also the possibility of eliminating wasps by means of special sprays or so-called wasp foam. These wasp poisons work by contact and transfer from one wasp to another. However, such a method of control is very controversial, as contact with the venom can also be dangerous for other animals, the environment or humans.
When using such agents, make sure to keep a safe distance from the nest. The exterminators should not be inhaled or come into contact with the skin.
Removing wasps by relocation
If you do not want to kill wasps, you have the chance to relocate the small animals between April and August. However, this option is also only permitted with the permission of the nature conservation authority. At the beginning of April, the nest is still under construction, so it is correspondingly small and manageable.
Smaller nests are put into a paper bag by commissioned specialists, cut off and transported away in a bee box. In the case of larger populations, the flying worker bees are first vacuumed up with a special device with a catch basket before the nest can be carefully relocated. The ideal place for relocation is about four kilometres away from the old nest. This makes it difficult for the workers of the wasp colony to find their way back to the old nest site. The new environment should be sparsely populated, as relocated wasps may react with above-average aggression and attack walking people as well as animals. An abandoned forest, for example, is therefore an ideal place for a possible relocation.