Should You Be Scared of Wasps in Iowa?
June 17, 2019
Does the buzzing sound of summer pests typically send you running? 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. However, is this fear really necessary?
Although many people don't enjoy the company of wasps, these pests aren't as big of a 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 Iowa and how to avoid unwanted encounters and stings.
Types of Wasps
Did you know that there are over 30,000 types of wasps around the world? Wasps are one of the most unique and diverse insects. From the solitary to the non-stinging species, the variety seems to be endless. Many people may not know that wasps are divided into two subgroups: social and solitary.
- Social Wasps: Social wasps form colonies within a nest, and each colony is unique since it is started from scratch each year in the spring. It is at this time the fertilized queen wasps that hibernated throughout the winter will build a small nest with the help of a starter brood of working female wasps. From this point to late summer, the workers will build and expand the nest for the queen to lay her eggs. By the end of this time, it is common for there to be more than 5,000 wasps.
- Solitary Wasps: The largest subgroup of wasps are solitary wasps. This type of wasp does not form their own colonies since they prefer to live and hunt on their own. The difference between both of these types of wasps is that social wasps use their stingers strictly for defense, whereas solitary wasps use their stingers and venom for hunting prey. This means solitary wasps will rarely harm humans unless they feel threatened.
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: This species of wasp is native to Iowa and gets its name from its black and yellow body. In fact, yellow jacket wasps are often mistaken for bees because of their prominent stripes, however, the yellow jacket wasp's waist is thinner and more defined than a bee. Yellow jackets are a half inch in size and are considered social wasps, which means they have a queen wasp leading the charge. Colonies and nests begin their work in the spring and die off in the fall.
The most common way to know that you have a yellow jacket wasp infestation is by spotting the wasp nest, which is typically aerial. The second way to detect an infestation is by noticing an influx of worker wasps around your property. People might have reason to be scared of this type of wasp since it is likely to sting to protect its wasp nest. 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: Also native to Iowa, this social wasp has a narrow body and dark brown coloring. An interesting fact about this type of wasp in Iowa is that there are up to 22 species of paper wasps in North America alone and worldwide there are upwards of 200 species.
This species of wasp got its name from the type of nest that it constructs. Paper wasp nests are typically composed of plant materials combined with their saliva, which makes them resemble a papery cone with an open face and geometric shapes. Crevices, abandoned bird houses and under the eaves of a house are ideal places for a nest because wasps prefer warm, dry places. There’s no need to be afraid of this type of Iowa wasp since paper wasps will avoid human contact unless disturbed.
- Mud Dauber Wasps: Unlike paper wasps and yellow jacket wasps, mud dauber wasps are known to be a solitary type of wasp. The look of a mud dauber can vary greatly, however, the most common colors are either all black or a blue metallic coloring. Mud daubers are a beneficial species of wasps in Iowa due to their help in reducing the spider population, among other insects.
Given their name, mud dauber wasps are unique in that they prefer to 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 for people who are scared of wasps, mud dauber wasps are generally not aggressive. However, due to the fact that they prefer to build their nests in mud, it can be easy for homeowners to miss and accidentally step on it, mow over it, etc.
- Cicada Killer Wasps: At two inches long, the cicada killer wasp is the largest species of wasps found in Iowa. Like the yellow jacket, this species is also black and yellowish-orange in color with striped markings. However, they live independently rather than within a colony and prefer to make their nests underground. The cicada killer wasp are named after the female wasps who seek out cicadas throughout July and August. Once the female wasp finds the cicada, they paralyze it with their venomous sting and bring it back to their nest to provide a host and food source for their eggs.
The main signs of a cicada killer wasp infestation are their U-shaped mounds. Homeowners will typically spot the female wasps digging around these mounds which are typically found in loose, sandy soil within gardens and flowerbeds. You can make a garden or flower bed less attractive for cicada killer wasps by placing fresh dirt over sandy, dry patches and watering the soil often.
Cicada killer wasps look dangerous, but they are essentially 'gentle giants.' The males will buzz around their territory to defend it from other males, yet, they have no stinger and cannot bite. Female cicada killer wasps have a stinger but rarely use it unless they are stepped on or grabbed at with bare hands. Additionally, cicada females do not have the nest-guarding instincts that hornets or honey bees possess.
How to Avoid 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 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. 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 provider.
Treating a Wasp Sting
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.
Preferred Pest Removes Wasp Nests
If you see an influx of wasps around your property, it is important to let a pest professional take care of the wasp removal. 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 your home and to keep you and your loved ones safe, call the experts at Preferred Pest Control. Don't wait until it is too late and you have a serious issue on your hands! You can check out our wasp removal process and give us a call today at (515) 276-7277 or schedule an appointment online.
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