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Wasps

Being stung by a wasp or bee is a painful experience and can be life threatening to anyone who may be allergic to stings. However, it is possible to reduce these risks by taking sensible precautions when outdoors and ensuring that wasp or bee nests are properly managed.

Signs of Wasp Nests

If you are experiencing high numbers of wasps in your home or garden there is likely to be a nest nearby, either on your property, in your garden or very close by.

A mature wasp nest in summer can contain thousands of wasps.

It is important to treat a wasp nest early to reduce the threat of a wasp sting, which can be very painful and even cause an allergic reaction.

 

Worried about a Wasp Nest?

You should not attempt to treat a wasp nest if you are sensitive to stings. Being stung by a common or social wasp (also known as a yellow jacket) is a painful experience and can be life threatening to those who are allergic to wasp stings and may suffer anaphylactic shock. Also be sure to never remove a wasp nest if it is indoors or is difficult to access. Be sure to never attempt to treat a nest when on a ladder or from a raised height.

If you disturb a nest, you may provoke the wasps inside to attack and sting you as a form of defence.

Identifying a Wasp Nest

Wasps make their nests from chewed wood pulp and saliva, giving them distinctive papery walls.

Nests are usually built in sheltered spots with easy access to the outside. You can often find wasp nests in wall cavities, roof spaces, under eaves, in bird boxes, sheds or garages.

To locate a nest, carefully watch the flight path of the returning wasps, this becomes easier later in the summer as the numbers of wasps increase.

Wasp Nest
Wasp Nest

How big can a Wasp Nest be?

At first, a wasp nest will start off very small.

When a Queen wasp starts to build a nest in spring it is usually about the size of a walnut or golf ball.

As summer progresses the nest will grow rapidly in size, as the number of wasps increase. A nest can become the size of a football, or even bigger in some cases.

It is best to treat a nest earlier in the year before numbers increase and the wasps become more aggressive.

Difference between Wasps and Bees

It is possible to confuse wasps with bees. However the treatment available for a wasp nest and a bee hive differ.

Since bees are highly beneficial to the environment and some species are under threat, bees should not be killed and bee hives should be left undisturbed whenever possible. If a bee hive represents a high risk (such as a bee hive in the home or a hospital or near those who are allergic to bee stings), request for bee removal (that the bee hive be moved to a safe area).

In most cases, removing the bee hive or colony as a very last resort, and only if it is considered a serious threat to people. In the case of honey bees this will only be done after contacting a qualified Bee Keeper.

Treatments for a wasp nest are far more common and can be carried out by a relevant operator who specialises in wasp control and removal. 

 

Key Facts

The English Wasp (Vespula vulgaris) and the European or German wasp (Vespula germanica) have become established in Kenya.

The Papernest Wasp nests are generally smaller and are the wasp nests you are most likely to see on external surfaces of your home or business.

Other wasp species are also considered pests but are far less common.

  • Wasps have much less hair on their bodies than bees.
  • Wasps have a tighter waist between the thorax and abdomen than bees.
  • Wasps are sometimes mistaken for hornets as they are similar in appearance, but wasps are smaller in size.
  • Wasps have distinctive yellow and black markings on their bodies.
  • They have three main body parts; the head, thorax and the abdomen.
  • Worker wasps vary in size from 12-17mm.
  • Only female wasps sting and can do so repeatedly.

How to Prevent Wasps

Prevention is key if you want to avoid problems with wasps, especially during the summer months when they are most active.

It is always easier to prevent a problem before it happens, rather than to wait for wasps to invade your home or garden. The fear of a wasp sting can be so great that it can prevent some people from going outdoors.

Wasp Prevention Tips

Early treatment of a wasp net will help to keep you and your family safe from painful stings.

Making changes to your behaviour and how you handle food and drink outdoors can also help to deter this stinging pest.

  • Check for nests – Check your home and garden in early spring for nests, early on they will be walnut or golf ball in size – early small nests have fewer wasps and are easier to treat quickly. Look for nests in lofts, garages, sheds, cavity walls or under eaves.
  • Secure bins – Ensure outside bins have tightly fitting lids. Keep bins at a distance from doors and windows so wasps are not attracted to the contents.
  • Keep windows and doors shut – To prevent wasps entering inside your home.
  • Keep safe – If you have spotted a nest, make sure you keep children and pets away from the area.

Although high numbers of wasps in your home or garden almost certainly means there is a nest nearby, removing a wasp nest may not always be a possible solution.

If the nest is not on your property, you will have very limited control on what you can do to remove it.

Nests located in confined, hard-to-reach areas (such as cavity walls) will also be more difficult to treat.

For peace of mind and to be completely safe from stings, call Azalia Pest today on 0718 937998.

Wasp Stings

A sting by a social or common wasp (also known as a yellow jacket) is a painful experience. It can be very upsetting and frightening for young children.

Wasp stings may even be life threatening to people allergic to the poison in stings. This allergic reaction is known as anaphylaxis.

People who have been stung several times previously and have become sensitised are more likely to suffer this systemic reaction.

The good news is that this type of allergic reaction is rare and it is even rarer for it to be fatal.

Preventing Wasp Stings

A wasp sting is a form of defence. If wasps feel threatened or if their nest is disturbed it makes them very aggressive and provokes them to sting.

In spring wasps hunt aphids, greenfly and other insects to feed grubs in the nest. At this time wasps will only become aggressive if they think their nest or their young are under threat.

Tips to Avoid Stings

In late summer/autumn wasps have no young to feed so get no sugary secretion. This is when they seek fermenting fruit and sweet things and become more of a pest at picnics, barbecues and outdoor meals in general.

Luckily there are some easy, practical things you can do yourself to try and avoid being stung.

  • Do not panic – If you find there are wasps nearby keep calm and move slowly away.
  • Do not scream, flap your arms or swat them – This will just agitate them and make them more aggressive.
  • Avoid strong, sweet smells – Do not use highly perfumed fragrances, shampoos, hair sprays.
  • Avoid bright colours – Do not wear bright, bold floral patterns on clothes and bags, which could attract wasps.
  • Avoid orchards – Or any soft fruit plants and even uncovered bins, where wasps gather seeking food.
  • Avoid open drinks – If drink cans or bottles are left unattended, it may encourage wasps to crawl inside.
  • Cover food and drink – Always keep food and drink covered when eating outdoors to deter wasps.
  • Stay clean – Ensure children’s hands/faces are cleaned after eating sweet foods/drinks.

Treatments for Wasp Stings

It is difficult to know how you might react to a wasp sting, if you have never been stung before.
There are some practical things you can do to help with any pain you might feel

  • Use a cold compress such as an ice-pack or cold flannel.
  • Take painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen to soothe any pain.
  • Take antihistamine tablets to reduce any small localised swelling around the sting.

If you are in any doubt about a wasp sting please consult a doctor or medical professional.

The allergic reaction anaphylaxis can occur when someone becomes sensitised to the poison in the sting. It is a rare reaction but can be fatal.

If someone has the following symptoms after being stung, immediately call for an ambulance:

  • difficulty breathing
  • wheezing
  • vomiting
  • nausea or diarrhoea
  • feeling faint or dizzy
  • swollen face or mouth
  • problems swallowing

Want to avoid wasp stings?

Wasp nest removal is one of the most reliable ways to reduce the number of wasps buzzing around your home and the risk of painful stings.

You will continue to have a wasp problem throughout the summer as long as a nest remains untreated on your property.

Wasp and Bee Species

There may be hundreds of species of wasps, hornets and bees found around the world. Only a few of these are seen as real pests here in Kenya and some of them do not sting.

Some species, like the Honey Bee, are actually a valuable part of our ecosystem. Understanding their habits, lifecycle and appearance can help to identify the best form of wasp control for your home or business.

Although Azalia Pest Kenya doesn’t offer wasp nest treatments and bee removal, you might find the below information on wasp and bee species useful.

European Wasp and English Wasp

(Family: Vespidae, e.g. Vespula Vulgaris & Vespula germanica)

These are the two commonly found wasp species that are the ones responsible for causing painful wasp stings.

Once indoors, they prefer to build nests in sheltered locations with easy access to the outside, such as lofts, garages and wall cavities. Outside they may nest in old rodent burrows, hollow trees and bushes.

Appearance

  • Yellow and black body, marking varies according to species.
  • Workers vary in size from 12 – 17mm.

Key Facts

  • Only young Queens survive over winter and emerge in the spring to start nest building and lay eggs.
  • Workers (sterile females) emerge during early summer and take over nest building. Queen continues to lay eggs.
  • New queens and males mate in early autumn.
  • Nest dies during winter, including all the males and workers.
  • Wasps do not swarm.
  • Food preferences — will take insects and sweet foods.
  • Females sting readily and repeatedly.
  • A colony may have as many as 25,000 individual wasps.

Honey Bee

(Apis Mellifera)

Honey bees are the species kept by Bee Keepers.

If you have a problem with honey bees, contact a local Bee Keeper or Environmental Health Department as they will be able to arrange for the swarm to be relocated.

Key Facts

  • They live in hollow trees or in chimneys, wall cavities or roof spaces.
  • They are similar in size to wasps but are furrier and mostly black in colour.
  • Honey bees convert nectar into honey and beeswax.
  • A honey bee swarm will arrive in flight and cluster on a tree branch.
  • A colony size can often be greater than 30,000 individual honey bees.
  • Population under threat from varroa mite.

Solitary Bee

(Osmia rufa)

Appearance

  • Often similar to the honey bee.

Lifecycle

  • Colony size – small nests which are individually tended by a female.
  • Preferred nest sites – often in soil, sometimes in soft cement and mortar between bricks.
  • Nest construction – various materials. Usually a new nest each year.

Habits

  • Swarming – does not swarm.
  • Overwintering – usually in the pupal stage within the nest.
  • Food preferences – honey and pollen.
  • Rarely stings.

Mortar Bee

(Amegilla sp.)

These bees are known as masonry or mortar bees because they like to nest in crevices or holes in masonry. They prefer to stay near walls that receive sunshine for much of the day.

Mortar bees use naturally occurring holes in bricks or mortar joints (especially mortar with a high lime or sand content).

Key Facts

  • Mortar bees are harmless; they are not aggressive and will not attack.
  • They include the wool-carder bee, the mining bee, the hairy-footed flower-bee, the leafcutter bee and the red mason bee.

Yellow Jackets (Social Wasp)

(Vespula)

Appearance

  • Worker – 1.2cm long.
  • Queen – 1.9cm long.
  • Alternating black and yellow bands.
  • Two sets of wings.
  • Narrow waist.
  • Lance-like stinger.

Lifecycle

  • Annual colonies.
  • Queen begins to nest in Spring.
  • Aggressive numbers in late Summer.
  • Colonies begin to decline by Autumn.
  • Only inseminated Queens nest over Winter.

Habits

  • Feeding – at certain times of the year feed on insects including caterpillars / harmful flies, as colonies increase they are attracted to food consumed by humans.
  • Sting – sting repeatedly, will sting if provoked with symptoms range from swelling to life-threatening allergic shock.
  • Visibility – visible during the day as they don’t see well at night.
  • Nesting – in trees / shrubs, or internally in attics, hollow walls/ flooring, sheds, under porches/eaves of buildings.

Carpenter Bees

(Xylocopa virginica)

Appearance

  • 1.9 – 2.5cm long.
  • Female faces are black, male faces are yellow.
  • Bright yellow, orange or white hairs on the thorax.
  • No hair on abdomen.
  • Females have a stinger, males do not.

Lifecycle

  • Tunnel into wood to lay eggs.
  • Life cycle from egg – larva – pupa – adult takes approximately seven weeks.
  • Larva is large and noisy.
  • New adults emerge from the nest late August.

Habits

  • Sting – Only sting if provoked.
  • Visibility – Late-spring to mid-July.
  • Nesting – Bare, untreated softwoods are preferred, including redwood, cedar, cypress and pine. Old nests are used year after year.
  • Location – Nests can be found in eaves, window trims, facia boards, siding, decks and outdoor furniture.
  • Feeding – flowers that contain pollen, eg Bradfords, Daffodils, Pansies. Pollen stored in abandoned tunnels for overwintering.