How to get rid of wasps in the garden

Discover our top tips on deterring wasps from spoiling your outside fun this summer.

Looking forward to eating alfresco with family and friends, but wondering how to get rid of wasps so they don’t break up the fun? You’re not alone.

Wasps have earned themselves an unfavourable reputation for causing summertime chaos in our gardens. We all have a friend (OK, it might be us) that will start flapping and shrieking at the first sound of buzzing. But we mustn’t forget that wasps play an important role in the ecosystem. With careful management, we can all live in harmony.

Wasps feeding on plums on plum treeCredit: Shutterstock/Bachkova Natalia
Wasps love a sweet treat, just like us

How wasps benefit the ecosystem

They are a gardener’s friend, not enemy

Before we find ways to deter wasps, it’s important to understand their role in the ecosystem and why killing wasps is not usually a good option. “Wasps are a vital part of garden ecosystems, acting as pollinators and controlling numbers of aphids and other insects,” says Barnaby Coupe, land use policy manager at the Wildlife Trusts. “To gardeners, they are more friend than foe. When up to 50% of insects have been lost, every step must be taken to promote coexistence with them.”

Wasps are very sociable creatures – although some may say they are a little too friendly – and live in vast colonies of up to 10,000 workers.

From April to September, you’ll find wasps roaming your garden for aphids, caterpillars and other insects to take back to their nests. So, while we might find them annoying as they interrupt our outside enjoyment, wasps help to save our prized veg from being eaten and destroyed.

Wasp are also valuable pollinators and, like bees, transfer pollen between flowers as they feed from the nectar. So, while they often suffer from a poor reputation, as they interrupt our summer fun and can pack a powerful sting, they do have some good qualities.

According to the Natural History Museum, “Each summer, social wasps in the UK capture an estimated 14m kg of insect prey, such as caterpillars and greenflies.”

Wasp pollinates a bright pink flowerCredit: Shutterstock/RomBo 64
Wasps are great pollinators and are particularly attracted to bright colours

Follow our top tips on how to deter wasps without causing them harm.

1. Grow scented plants to deter wasps

Strong fragrances will repel wasps

Todor Stoev, pest control specialist at Fantastic Pest Control, suggests growing strongly scented plants. “You can deter wasps from your property by planting vigorous-smelling plants such as basil, marigolds and citronella in your garden since they have strong odours that repel them.”

This doesn’t mean you need to plant a whole garden of strongly scented specimens, but you could consider planting them in areas where you tend to dine or relax.

2. Avoid bright colours

Go neutral to deter the wasps

Although we often turn to a brighter, more colourful wardrobe when the weather is warmer, bold colours can be attractive to wasps. Stoev suggests “opting for more neutral or muted colours” to avoid wasps making a beeline towards you.

The same goes for any outside decorations, such as tablecloths and seat cushions. When wasps are at their prime, consider toning down your exterior colour scheme. Also, think about your planting, keeping bright blooms that will attract wasps away from dining areas.

3. Remove home-grown fruit and veg that’s gone over

It’s a wasp’s banquet

If you have a glut of any home-grown fruit and veg, and it goes over before you can pick it, wasps will make rich pickings of your harvest. Simon Akeroyd, gardening editor at Saga Exceptional suggests, “One of the best ways of keeping wasps away from your garden is to clear up any fallen fruit as wasps love to feed on the sugary, rotting material on the ground. If you have a large garden, you can gather up and move fallen, damaged fruit to a tucked-away corner, which will entice the wasps there and away from your outside seating area.”

Windfall apple on grass covered in waspsCredit: Shutterstock/Lasse Johansson
Collect your windfalls before your wasps invade

4. Protect your food from wasp invasions

Cover up your edibles

Wasps have a nose for a tasty treat, so when outside, protect your food and drinks. A classic afternoon tea is a prime example – wasps will feed on the jam before you have the chance to ask, “Jam before cream or cream before jam?”

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5. Spray peppermint oil

Get minty

Peppermint oil is a natural insect repellent that can keep wasps at bay as they turn their noses up at the menthol content. While we might enjoy the fresh fragrance, wasps find it irritating. Stoev recommends “diluting peppermint oil with water and spraying it around areas where you are aware of wasp activity”.

Using peppermint oil as a spray rather than as a liquid or solid is also more effective, according to Eliminate Solutions.

How to make up a peppermint oil spray

  1. Fill a spray bottle with 250ml 99 fl oz) water.
  2. Add 10-15 drops of peppermint oil.
  3. Shake the mixture together to blend.
  4. Spray around the areas where you want to deter wasps, and repeat every few days or after it’s rained.

Don’t use the peppermint oil directly on wasps, warns Eliminate Solutions, “as this can cause them to become agitated and be more likely to sting”.

6. Light a citronella candle

It might help a bit

“Citronella candles can help to repel insects, such as wasps, although the effectiveness of these candles might be limited, and they are more efficient for mosquitoes,” says Stoev. However, it’s worth trying them to see how they work for you in your garden.

Citronella is an essential oil extracted from lemongrass and can also be made into a spray. Use it in the same way as the peppermint spray above.

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Citronella candle burning and placed on a glass outside tableCredit: Shutterstock/faithie
A citronella candle will help to ward of unwanted wasps and mosquitoes

6. Turn down the lights

Pretend you are out

Wasps are attracted to bright lights and will home in on any illuminated areas. To keep your late nights in the garden wasp free, “Keep the outdoor lights off at night,” says Stoev. “You may be able to deter wasps from nesting in your area and reduce the attraction of flying insects too.”

And if you don’t want to be sitting in complete darkness, a few citronella candles dotted about here and there will add a touch of atmospheric lighting while helping to keep the bugs at a distance.

7. Seal up your bins

Move temptation

Wasps will be attracted to the scent of rubbish, so a simple solution is to clear up your bin area or, if possible, keep your waste in a sealed bin shed. Another wise option is to locate your seating areas away from outside waste storage, if space allows.

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How to get rid of a wasp’s nest

Call in the experts

If you discover a wasp’s nest in your garden, don’t be tempted to deal with it yourself. Call in the experts, especially if you are allergic to their sting. “Taking care of wasp nests without the proper training and equipment can be dangerous,” says Stoev. “Professional pest control experts are responsible for safely removing wasp nests, ensuring the safety of everyone involved.”

Don’t be tempted to remove a wasp’s nest yourself – call in the experts Credit: Shutterstock/Vastram
Don’t be tempted to remove a wasp’s nest yourself – call in the experts

What attracts wasps?

They have a sweet tooth

Just like many of us, wasps have a sweet tooth and are partial to sugary treats. So while you’re enjoying afternoon tea in your garden, or indulging in a cool beverage, you may find yourself distracted by an uninvited wasp or two.

Understanding how wasps behave

Wasps are friendly creatures and take care of unwanted bugs

Wasps are very sociable and live in vast colonies of up to 10,000 workers, although you might consider them a little too friendly. They are certainly not lazy and spend their time building nests in trees, buildings and animal burrows.

According to Countryfile wasps are predators and at the top of the food chain, and without them food webs would break down. “They help to keep other invertebrate populations, such as spiders, woodlice, and insects, in check.”

Camilla Sharman

Written by Camilla Sharman she/her

Updated:

With her 30 years of experience, Camilla Sharman has covered a wide range of sectors within the business and consumer industries both as a feature, content, and freelance writer.  As a business journalist, Camilla has researched articles for many different sectors from the jewellery industry to finance and tech, charities, and the arts. Whatever she’s covered, she enjoys delving deep and learning the ins and out of different topics, then conveying her research within engaging content that informs the reader.