How to Get Rid of a Wasp Nest

There are about 1,000 species of social wasps. Many people are familiar with those that build paper nests. Photo courtesy of Peeples Gary, USFWS.

Wasps begin scouting for new homes in early spring. They like sheltered places with easy access to food, like under a branch of a mature tree, or—unfortunately for them and you—the eaves of your house. Paper wasps build their nests from plant fibers supplemented with mud and secretions from their bodies or other plants. Wasps build anew each year; they do not reuse old nests. 

Wasp colonies starve to death after the first frost, except for the queen which hibernates through the winter. In the spring, she looks for a place to build a new nest which she quickly populates as she builds. It’s best to prevent queens from building their new nests right now in early spring.

Wasps are good pollinators and a vital part of the ecosystem. If they build a nest on the edge of your yard, or out in the woods, great! If they build it too close to your deck or house and someone gets stung, you need to do something about it. 

If you act quickly before the nest is built, there’s no need to kill them and, therefore, no need to spray poison all over your property.

To avoid killing wasps and spreading toxic chemicals where you live, build a fake nest. Wasps won’t come within 150 feet of it. Wasps are territorial and apparently don’t have very good eyesight. From a distance, they will think it’s another nest and find another place to build theirs. 

To prevent wasps from making your home their home, you’ll need a paper lunch sack, a wad of newspaper, a loaded staple gun, and a ladder.

Fake wasp nest and large staple gun.

Loosely crumple a sheet or two of newspaper to fill the belly of the lunch sack. Twist the open end of the lunch sack. Find a sheltered, dry place such as under the eaves of your house and staple the bag where it won’t get wet. It should look like a punching bag.

Homemade, fake wasp nest. It makes a good conversation piece.

The first bag I put up finally fell apart after six years. During that time, we only saw two nests on the other side of the deck. They got to the size of a golf ball and then were abandoned. 

You probably already have a nest by your house, or you wouldn’t be Googling it and reading this right now. Put the false nest up anyway. It will drive away an existing nest, which takes some time. Move slowly around that area and be careful until they leave, or wait until fall when they die of natural causes. I don’t think you want to kill them; they’re just doing their job. 

Sure, you could pay $10 for a fake hornet’s nest on the internet, or you can make one yourself in five minutes. Then treat yourself to lunch!

Case Study: Woodland Restoration in Stone Ridge, NY

The intermediate area between forest and yard, called an edge habitat, is typically infected with invasive vines and shrubs. This type of environment harbors disease carrying pests like fleas and ticks. Barberry, wild raspberry, poison ivy, grapevines, and other invasive plant species quickly overwhelm trees and make the ground impassable for us. Mice, which carry ticks, prefer such sheltered environments. 

Does this look familiar? Typical New England edge environment shown with overgrown invasives.

A homeowner in Stone Ridge, New York had just such an overgrown area on his property. The family could not traverse the area without picking up ticks or being assaulted by various thorny plants and poison ivy. They wanted better and safer use of the property and called Poison Ivy Patrol to remove the poison ivy growing throughout the wooded area of the property. Once we showed them why the poison ivy was there and what they could have instead, the project quickly escalated to woodland restoration.

Property to be cleared shows diseased, dead, and dying trees, multiflora rose bushes, and barberry bushes.

We completed the project in two phases. The first phase, in November, entailed clearing the invasive vines and shrubs. This incurred some risk to the team who cleared the area over a 4-day period.

The whole place was crawling with ticks.  We made a game out of who picked off the most ticks in one day. The record one day was 29. Ticks transmit disease: lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and other diseases to housepets and humans.

Once the trees, shrubs, and vines were cleared, we cut down the dead, dying and diseased trees that were a drain on the healthier trees.

A healthy beech tree now has plenty of room and sunlight to live a long life.  

Hudson Valley winters being brutal, the team returned in May to finish the job. We chipped everything and spread the chips over the cleared ground. 

The wood chips serve as compost, putting nutrients back into the soil as they decay to help the remaining healthy trees thrive. The chips also help to stifle future weed growth and provide habitat for insects, macroinvertebrates, which in turn are food for birds, squirrels and other forest dwelling animals.

Red cedar trees and brush being lined up for chipping.

Wood chips being sprayed over woodland area which has been cleared of unwanted trees and brush.

The restored woodland effectively doubles the usable land on the property. The owner’s children can now play in an easily accessible and much safer woodland area.

Restored woodland requires maintenance, a service which PI Patrol offers. These plants have been producing seeds for years, and whatever was there will want to come back up again. When we return to the property next year, it will be quick and easy to dig up the sprouts that come up. The final step in woodland restoration is to plant native understory trees and shrubs, bringing in more birds, etc., which will jumpstart the ecosystem and complete the biological cycle. 

Stay tuned to read about some of the projects where we did just that.

Low stone wall at the back of the property shows a clear division between the restored, healthy woodland area and the overgrown, unhealthy woodland beyond.

If you have a wooded property that looks like this one did, and is in need of some TLC, call Poison Ivy Patrol at (845) 687-9528 to schedule a consultation.

12 Hudson Valley Invasives That Will Ruin Your Yard

The average American spends 70 hours a year on lawn and garden care. It’s a labor of love: 75% of homeowners think it’s important to spend time enjoying their yards, and a well-manicured lawn can also do wonders for the enjoyment and curb appeal of your home.

For most people, this means doing some mowing, watering, and the occasional pulling of weeds. However, there are a number of invasive plant species in the Hudson Valley that can creep into even the best cared-for properties. Some of them look pretty, but they can give you rashes and allergic reactions, kill the plants and trees that you actually want, and ruin your yard in general.

We’ve listed 12 of them below that we’ve noticed in our travels as a Hudson Valley landscaping company specializing in holistic, chemical-free invasive plant removal. If any of these look familiar, consider this: the springtime is the easiest, most economical time to address unwanted invaders to your yard. Consider hiring a professional invasive and poison ivy removal specialist.

1. Poison Ivy

A brush with poison ivy is almost like a rite of passage; touching its oily surface can cause rashes and nasty allergic reactions. To identify it, look out for pointy leaves in groups of three along the ground or climbing as a vine.

 

2. Japanese Knotweed

In 2014, Newsweek published an article titled “Japanese Knotweed: The Invasive Plant That Will Eat the Value of Your Home.” They weren’t wrong. Although the heart-shaped leaves, bamboo stems and white flower tassels are pretty, it’s one of the most rugged and pervasive invasive species anywhere in the world. It can take up to seven years of maintenance to fully eradicate it, as the seeds can germinate for years.

 

3. Oriental Bittersweet

True to its name, bittersweet is beautiful to look at but can destroy entire woods if left unchecked. Its spiral vines will wrap around trees while tightening around the trunk, strangling the pipeline (inner bark) that provides critical nutrients for growth.

 

4. Virginia Creeper

Since it causes skin rashes for some people, Virginia creeper vines are often mistaken as poison ivy; the critical difference is that it has five leaflets instead of three. Although some people voluntarily plant it, it’s infamous as an aggressive grower that needs constant maintenance to avoid crowding out your other foliage.

 

5. Wild Grape

In our opinion, this is the most common Hudson Valley invasive plant. They’re notorious tree-killers, and are often found along the sides of roadways, in vacant lots or along the edge of yards, alongside bittersweet and poison ivy. Instead of hugging tree trunks, they typically hang off of branches, weighing them down while stealing sunlight.

6. Wisteria

Wisteria is a beautiful but deadly vine that comes in two varieties: Chinese (which twists clockwise) and Japanese (which twists counterclockwise). They’re both known for strangling trees, destroying native habitats and climbing up everything in their way.

7. Barberry

A dense, thorny shrub that gets between two to six feet high and looks good year-round: in the springtime, it has tiny yellow flowers, in fall, it turns shades of red, orange and purple, and in the winter sports bright red berries. It usually grows in depleted or unhealthy soil while crowding out native plants. It’s also notorious for being a home for brown field mice who carry ticks and Lyme disease.

8. Asian Honeysuckle

Asian honeysuckle is a shrub that you can find in a wide range of habitats in the Hudson Valley; it thrives where land movers and people have disturbed the soil. Starting in the early spring, it quickly leafs out, suppressing native species and altering habitats by forming a dense thicket.

9. English Ivy

This is a tough one, because having a wall of ivy looks nice climbing up the side of houses, and also provides ground cover where you won’t have to mow. However, like most vines, it can smother out native plants, and it can sometimes provide safe harbor for poison ivy.

10. Japanese Stiltgrass

The first invasive grass on our list, stiltgrass came to the United States in the early 1900s and can currently be found anywhere from New York to Florida. It seems to prefer acidic soil, and thrives in light conditions. Once it gains a foothold, it can quickly form dense stands of grass that displace native vegetation.

11. Mugwort

This invasive herb is one of the most common that we see in New York. Almost everyone with a yard has some mugwort, which spreads by growing horizontal roots near the surface of the soil. It’s easy to pull out, but unless you work with a professional, it’ll always come back.

12. Garlic Mustard

The adaptable garlic mustard is a notorious invader of forests; it’s the dominant undergrowth of many of them, which hurts the biodiversity of all species. Each individual plant can produce upwards of 600 seeds per season, which can be viable up to five years. The easiest way to identify it? Mash the leaves of the plant in your fingers, and check for a garlicky odor.

So there you have it: a dirty dozen of invasive plant species that will wreck your yard. If any of these look familiar, get in touch with us and we’ll take a personalized, holistic approach to getting rid of it, as well as woodland restoration to protect against future growth. Take back your yard with us!