It is officially wasp season in Houston and time for Houstonians to learn their options when it comes to wasp control. In order to know what type of wasp control you might need in the case of an infestation, it is first important to know the common species of wasps in Houston, the signs of an infestation and when it is time to seek professional wasp control.
Types of Wasps In Houston and Their Habits
Although the bald-faced hornet lives in many different areas across the contiguous United States, Alaska and Canada, it most commonly exists in the southeastern United States, including Houston. This means that Houstonians need to be particularly proactive in learning their options for wasp control. The bald-face hornet’s name can be misleading for some, as the this insect is actually a species of wasp. These wasps can easily be mistaken for a yellowjacket, as they have black bodies, a white-patterned face and grey wings. Bald-faced hornets also have two lines which run from their midsection to their head and on the end of their abdomens. Adult bald-faced hornets can grow to be three quarters of an inch long with the queen hornets usually becoming larger than the workers. Instead of building their nests inside of walls or in the attics or buildings, bald-faced hornets will nest on tree branches and shrubs, in utility poles, sheds, and overhangs or in other structures. Their nests are made of a grey outer covering which resembles paper and can be as long as two feet and as wide as fourteen inches.
Once wasp season starts in the spring, queen bald-faced hornets will begin to build their nests. These nests are made from old wood that the wasps have chewed into paper scraps. The nests have a distinct upside down water drop shape with the entry hole located on the bottom of the nest. The queen will lay eggs inside of the small chambers within the nest and once the eggs have hatched, she then feeds the larvae pieces of insects until they become pupa. These larvae are all female and will hatch into workers with the responsibility of foraging for different insects as food, feeding the larvae and constructing the nest. Once summer approaches, the queen will lay eggs for a second time with these eggs eventually hatching to become male and female wasps. At maturity, the colonies can reach up to 400 bold-faced hornets. These wasps are aggressive in nature with a painful sting and will relentlessly attack any perceived threat. Due to their aggressive nature, it is not a good idea to attempt to remedy a bald-faced hornet infestation by yourself. Instead, seek wasp control from a professional.
Mud daubers, also known as dirt daubers, are named for their tendency to build their nests out of dried mud. These wasps are common across Texas and have earned the reputation of being a particularly annoying species of wasp as they tend to nest where humans live.You might find a mud dauber nest on your property under overhangs, front porches or in barns. Mud daubers prefer to nest in these locations because they need a dry environment for their eggs to mature and hatch. The nest of a mud dauber varies in shape and ranges from appearing tube like to spherical. There are many different species of mud daubers so their specific identifying characteristics may vary, but generally these wasps are three quarters of an inch to one inch long and can be solid black, black with yellow markings and iridescent bluish black in color. However, one of the most reliable identifying features of a mud dauber is its long, narrow waist.
Mud daubers are known as solitary insects, which means that each of their nests only consist of one wasp. This solitary wasp is always female and is responsible for all tasks from building the nest to foraging for food for the larvae. After the female mud dauber has completed her nest, she will sting and paralyze spiders and other insects and place them into mud cells within the nest. She then lays her eggs on top of her prey and seals the cell with mud. The eggs will hatch into larvae that will eat the insects or spiders left by the female adult wasp and then transform into pupae. Once they have turned into adult wasps, the next generation of mud daubers begins.
The adult mud dauber’s diet consists of honeydew, plant nectar and the bodily fluids of the insects and spiders that they catch. They are known to be helpful in capturing black widow spiders. This can mean that if you see mud daubers on your property, you may also want to inspect for black widow spiders. These wasps do have stingers, but do not defend their nests like other wasp species and are generally not aggressive, rarely stinging even if they are disturbed. If captured or mishandled however, the mud dauber will sting, but their stings are not considered to be very painful. Regardless of the minimal threat that mud daubers pose to humans, it is still important to seek wasp control if you spot a mud dauber or mud dauber nest on your property.
Perhaps the most aggressive species of wasp in Houston is the southern yellowjacket. These wasps are venomous, social and are plentiful in urban areas. Unlike the mud dauber, southern Yellowjackets will not hesitate to defend their nests if threatened. They will do so by sending a swarm of worker wasps to sting their victims repeatedly. These worker wasps are approximately one half of an inch long with a black and yellow body and clear wings.
Southern yellowjackets will usually nest underground, but sometimes their nests can be found indoors. Their nests can grow to an impressive six feet in width. Some colonies can survive for years and will continue to grow during this time. Their nests are globular and are made of round combs attached one on top of another. It is the job of the worker wasps to forage for food for their colony. This food includes live insects and animal carcasses. Because they are so aggressive, you should never attempt to dismantle a southern yellowjacket wasp nest on your own. Always seek professional wasp control when dealing with southern yellowjackets. However, you can take measures to stop these wasps from infesting your property in the first place as a form of preventative wasp control.
Most species of wasps will only sting humans in an effort to defend their nests if they are disturbed or feel threatened. Female stinging wasp will use their ovipositor to inject venom into their victim, while male wasps are not capable of stinging. Some wasp species, like the yellow-jacket, can release over 100 wasps to protect their nests with each wasp capable of stinging their victims several times. Because of their aggressive nature, it is important to seek wasp control if you notice a nest on your property.
During the summer months when people are spending more time outdoors, wasp stings can be common making it a good time to seek wasp control. If you are stung by a wasp, you will likely develop a welt which surrounds the site of the sting. You will see a small white mark in the center of the welt which is where the stinger has punctured your skin. In individuals who are not sensitive to wasp venom, the swelling and discomfort of a sting will usually diminish within hours. Those who are allergic to wasps might experience what is called a large local reaction. These reactions produce symptoms which are more severe than the usual wasp sting on non-sensitive individuals. During a large local reaction, you might experience severe swelling and redness around the site of the sting and nausea or vomiting. These reactions will generally go away on their own in about a week’s time. If you have a large local reaction to a wasp sting, this does not mean that you will always react to wasp stings in this way. This reaction could be an isolated event and does not necessarily indicate that you are allergic to wasps.
As most people can sustain many wasp stings without being seriously injured, some people who are hyper-allergenic may face more serious symptoms if stung by a wasp. Approximately one percent of the population is hyper-allergenic, meaning a wasp sting can be fatal to these individuals. If you are allergic to wasps, you could enter into anaphylactic shock very soon after you are stung. If you are stung by a wasp and find that you experience severe facial, lip or throat swelling, hives on areas that were not stung, difficulty breathing, dizziness, a drop in blood pressure, loss of consciousness, diarrhea, nausea, or a weak or racing pulse, you might be experiencing anaphylactic shock. This condition requires immediate medical attention. Due to the potential seriousness of wasp stings for some individuals, wasp control is necessary to avoid any life-threatening reactions.
How To Protect Your Home From Wasps
If you believe you will need wasp control around your home in the summer months, prevention should always be your first line of defense. There are steps you can take to prevent wasps from building their nests on your property, thus decreasing the risk of stings and other annoyances caused by wasps.
First, cover your trashcans to deter wasps from buzzing around your old food scraps. Wasps are especially attracted to sweets, which includes nectar and perfumes and lotion with a sweet scent. They are also drawn to pet food and bird food, so if you have pets, make sure to leave their food indoors during the day. You should also make sure that structures around your home and yard are intact. Wasps tend to build their nests in crevices, with broken panelling or siding providing an ideal environment for wasps to nest. Walk around the outside of your house and any structures on your property to ensure that they are undamaged. If you do find damage, even on screens, doors or windows, it is a good idea to get them repaired. Wasps will also use rodent holes as a nesting location, so if you find any rodent holes in your yard, make sure to fill them with dirt.
Another way to prevent wasps from infesting your property is to purchase decorative wasp decoys from a home improvement store. Some species of wasps will not build their nests within 200 feet of another wasp nest. These decoys can be hung on either side of your home to trick and deter wasps from nesting on your property. Additionally, you can grow insect repelling plants in your yard to help ward off wasps. Instead of planting flowers in the outdoor spaces where you spend time, grow plants like thyme, citronella, eucalyptus, wormwood and spearmint. Not only do these plants repel wasps, but they will also repel other insects while adding beauty and relaxing fragrance to the area. Peppermint essential oil is another way that you can prevent wasps from nesting on your property. Along with planting spearmint in your garden, you can also add a couple drops of peppermint essential oil to a cotton pad and put the pads in areas where wasps are likely to nest. This includes porch roofs, and under ledges and other crevices. Focus on locations around your property that you have previously found wasp nests, as some wasp species prefer to build their nests in the same place repeatedly. These preventative measures are a good start to wasp control, but many times a wasp infestation will require professional wasp control.
Signs of a Wasp Infestation and When To Seek Wasp Control
A wasp infestation on your property usually warrants wasp control. There are a few signs you can watch for to know when it’s time to reach out to professionals who can deliver effective and safe wasp control to your home.
Wasp infestations are most common in the summer months, as this is peak wasp season and the time of year when wasps are most active. Wasp season will start in early spring, making April and May a good time to seek wasp control before an infestation occurs and becomes overwhelming. If you begin to notice buzzing or see wasps flying around your home during this period of the year, you might be witnessing a budding wasp infestation. An increased presence of dead insects around your property can also indicate a wasp infestation. Wasps feed on spiders and insects, so more dead insects around your home could be a sign that wasps are hunting nearby. Lastly, if you find wasps buzzing around your trash cans, an infestation might be imminent. This is why it’s important to cover your garbage cans and remove any trash items that might be alluring to wasps.
The presence of any of the above signs on your property indicates a potential wasp infestation. The best way to ensure that you eliminate an infestation and stay safe from wasp stings during the summer months is to seek professional wasp control for your home and your property.