Should You Be Scared of Wasps

Should You Be Scared of Wasps?

June 17, 2014

The presence of just one wasp is usually enough to get your adrenaline pumping, to make the hair on the back of your neck stand up and even motivate you to raise your hands in defense. Anxiety and fear of bees and wasps is common, often caused from the experience of a previous sting. Other individuals with extreme anxiety have Spheksophobia, which is the fear of wasps. However, is this fear really necessary?

Although many people don't enjoy the company of wasps, these pests aren't as big of nuisance as we make them out to be. They are actually very beneficial to the ecosystem, working as nature's own pest control by eating other insects that destroy our crops and gardens. They are also commonly known to be great pollinators. And while it's possible to get stung by a wasp, it isn't very likely. Read on to learn more about the most commonly found wasps in the Midwest, how to avoid unwanted encounters and what to do if you are stung.

Types of Wasps in Iowa

Here are brief descriptions of the four most commonly found wasps in Iowa. You can find out more information about each of these wasps by referencing our pest library.

  • Yellow Jacket Wasps: Yellow jackets are a half inch in size and are social wasps that live in colonies, organized under the queen wasp. Colonies and nests begin their work in the spring and die off in the fall. They are the most dangerous to humans in late summer and early fall when they have grown in number to reach their peak colony size.
  • Paper Wasps: Paper wasps create a nest that looks like a papery cone. Crevices, abandoned bird houses and under the eaves of a house are ideal places for a nest because wasps prefer warm, dry places. Paper wasps will avoid human contact unless disturbed.
  • Mud Dauber Wasps: Originating from the solitary wasp species, mud dauber wasps build tube-like nests made out of mud on the sides of exterior walls. Each year there can be several generations of wasps living together. Fortunately, mud dauber wasps are generally not aggressive.
  • Cicada Killer Wasps: At two inches long, the cicada killer wasp is the largest wasp found in Iowa. Like the yellow jacket, this species is also black with yellow markings. However they live independently rather than within a colony. Only female cicada killer wasps have the ability to sting, but will only do so when handled or threatened.

Avoiding a Wasp Encounter

Wasps are carnivores and feed on spiders, caterpillars and other insects, but they are also fond of sugary, sweet smells. When you are gardening, at a soccer game, a picnic or other outdoor function, it is best not to wear perfumes, hairsprays or aftershaves. If you are outside eating, keep food in sealed containers until you are ready to eat it. There are some smells that wasps do not like and will avoid. You can try dabbing mint oil on your wrist or spritzing yourself with insect repellents.

In the home, you won't usually find an insect invasion unless they were attracted by food smells and fly in through a door or window. You can prevent a home encounter by storing food in the refrigerator or in sealed containers (including your pet food). Ripe fruit should be kept in the refrigerator rather than on the counter. If a wasp does enter the home, remain calm and open a window for it to fly out of or try creating a DIY vinegar, sugar and salt wasp trap. If you are facing many wasps that made their way indoors in search of food or are looking for winter hibernation, contact your local pest control.

Avoiding a Wasp Encounter

Wasps are generally not aggressive and only sting people when they are disturbed or sense that their nest is in danger. Unlike bees, which can only sting once because they leave their stinger in their victim's skin, wasp stingers are smooth and can sting multiple times. Usually wasp stings are not severe, but reactions can vary. If you have life-threatening allergies to wasp or bee stings, contact medical help immediately after being stung.

To treat a wasp sting, WebMD recommends ice to control swelling and over-the-counter painkillers like ibuprofen to relieve pain. If the area around the sting is itchy, apply calamine lotion or a baking soda and water paste mixture.

Remove Wasp Homes for Good

You can knock down wasp nests in your yard or around your home, but before you know it a new wasp nest has been built. To permanently remove wasps from around your home, call Preferred Pest today!