Wasps and other stingers are a summer inevitability, especially if your yard is a particularly attractive place for them to be. Certain plants are more likely to attract wasps than others, usually because they house some sort of food source (like fruits, flowers, or other insects).
This may not sound like good news, but wasps are actually highly beneficial insects, both as pollinators and predators of other bugs. Learning which plants are most likely to attract wasps is the best way to manage their numbers, so you can reap the benefits of having them around without risking stings.
Trees that attract wasps
Fruit trees are practically guaranteed to attract wasps, especially paper wasps and yellow jackets. This is because wasps adore sweet things, and will congregate around trees with ripe fruits to gorge themselves on juice.
Though almost all types of fruit trees can attract wasps, fig-trees have a special relationship with the insects. Fig trees have evolved alongside fig wasps, a group of around 900 tiny wasp species that each pollinate one of the world’s 900 species of the fig tree.
Fig trees and fig wasps have coexisted for so long that neither can survive without the other! The female fig wasp lays her eggs inside the fig, which is actually an inflorescence – a cluster of many flowers and seeds contained in a fleshy, bulb-like stem.
In doing so, the wasp uses the fig as a nursery for her unhatched babies while pollinating the hundreds of tiny flowers inside. Once her mission is complete, the female fig wasp dies inside the inflorescence. Over the course of the next few weeks, the eggs hatch into larvae and eventually develop into adult fig wasps, which emerge from the fig to begin the cycle over again.
The idea of potentially eating dozens of tiny wasps with each bite of your fig may be enough to put you off them altogether.
Keep in mind!
On the bright side, fig wasps are tiny and harmless, so having a fig tree in your garden shouldn’t cause a problem with stingers.
Flowers that attract wasps
Flowering plants are also very attractive to wasps and other stinging insects. This is because, like bees, wasps feed on the sweet, high-energy nectar produced by flowers, and can often be found buzzing around blooms. This is actually a good thing, as wasps are also pollinators and can help to improve the overall health of your garden.
Other plants that attract wasps
Yet another benefit of having wasps around is that they also feed on other, less desirable insect species. Therefore, plants that are infested with garden pests (like aphids, flies, and caterpillars) will attract wasps from far and wide. The wasps will prey on the other insects, preventing damage to your plants and keeping the population of pests in your garden to a minimum.
Wasps also collect honeydew, a sweet, sticky substance secreted by aphids and other types of insects. If left unchecked, honeydew can cover large areas of infested plants and encourage the growth of black, sooty mold so, by removing it, wasps can help to reduce the damage.
Should you try to get rid of wasps in your yard?
They may not be everyone’s favorite insect, but wasps are very useful bugs to have around. Their tendency to sting puts a lot of people off but, in reality, most wasp species won’t attack humans unless their nest is under threat.
Instead, wasps spend most of their time pollinating flowers and keeping pest populations in check. Having a healthy number of wasps in your backyard can help to keep your garden healthy and your plants thriving!
If, however, you still want to reduce their numbers, there are a few things you can do to discourage wasps in your backyard.
How to keep wasps away from your yard
Pick up fruit as soon as it falls
If you have a fruit tree in your garden, you’ve probably noticed that it’s a hub for all kinds of insects – including wasps! The wasps are there for the fruit, so staying on top of your harvest is the best way to discourage them. Pick fruits as soon as they ripen, and clear away fallen fruits regularly to keep them from attracting insects.
Plant certain types of flowers
Wasps love flowers, but certain types are more likely to attract them than others. Blue, purple, white, and yellow flowers are most attractive to wasps, whereas warmer, red-colored blossoms are thought to be less appealing. Like bees, wasps are active in the daytime so plants that flower in the evening (like evening primrose and jasmine) won’t attract them.
Plants that are thought to actively repel bees and wasps include:
- Citronella and lemongrass
- Evergreen plants
- Carnivorous plants
Control other pests
Wasps are drawn to plants with large populations of prey insects, such as aphids. Staying on top of infestations can, therefore, eliminate this food source and help to reduce the number of wasps in your garden.
Wasps are a common (and essential) feature of any healthy backyard. Seeing wasps around your plants is generally a positive thing; they’re either busy pollinating or predating other pest species, both of which will keep your garden thriving.
However, too many wasps can become a problem. Wasps are highly unlikely to attack humans unless their colony is under threat but, for people with allergies, even a single sting can be dangerous.
If you want to reduce the number of wasps in your backyard, try planting flowers that are less appealing to them (like marigolds or jasmine). Ripe and fallen fruits should be gathered up immediately to prevent them from attracting wasps, and infestations of other garden pests (like aphids) should be dealt with immediately.