While spring and summer often find people outdoors enjoying the warmth, these seasons also find people fleeing indoors to escape wasps. You’re likely to spot them buzzing around your garden, plate, or glass of lemonade. You may even have a nest or a few hanging on and around your house and in the ground beneath your lawn. So, why are they there? What attracts wasps to homes, yards, pools, and patios? While the specifics are different for different types of wasps, the answer is pretty simple: shelter, food, and water.
The first thing a fertilized female wasp looks for after mating (solitary wasps) or when she wakes up from hibernation (social wasps) is a suitable location to deposit her eggs.
Solitary parasitoid wasps seek out their preferred host, usually a specific type of insect or spider or its eggs. If your yard or garden has insect pests such as caterpillars, aphids, beetles, or cockroaches, parasitoid wasps are likely to find their way to you. Mud daubers, another type of solitary wasp, need some dirt and a vertical, sheltered surface on which to build. Mud dauber nests are typically found on the sides of buildings, including homes, though some mud daubers nest in holes underground like their cousins, the cicada killers.
Social wasps include yellow jackets, hornets, and paper wasps. They all build their nests out of a papery substance they make by chewing up wood and mixing it with saliva. They may come to your property in search of building materials or a place to build. Some yellow jackets nest underground or in cavities within trees, rotten logs, or buildings. Hornets and paper wasps build more open-air nests, either hanging from building eaves or tree branches. As such, they are likely to be attracted to your roof overhangs or any sturdy trees in the yard. While it’s unlikely there will be enough opportunity to build a wasp nest in the house, covered decks, patios, and porches are all attractive building sites for a future queen.
Food & Water
All animals need food and water, and wasps are no exception. They eat different things during different life stages.
Larval wasps need protein, which they typically get from other insects or spiders.
Parasitoid wasp larvae feed off their hosts, while larval mud daubers and cicada killers consume the insects or spiders that their mothers packed into their cells.
The larvae of social wasps eat the insects or spiders that worker wasps capture and bring back to the nest. If your yard has an abundance of insects and spiders, it’s likely to attract both solitary and social wasps. Solitary wasps are pickier than social wasps and tend to specialize on certain species of insects or spiders. Social wasps, on the other hand, can be attracted by almost any kind of protein source, including those hamburgers on your barbecue or the can of cat food you left out. Wasps are most actively seeking protein early in the season when they provision their nest cells or hatched larvae.
Adult wasps subsist on nectar and other sugary substances. While some species get sugar from their own larvae, who make a sweet fluid that the adults drink, this source won’t last forever. Other species drink the nectar from flowers or consume aphid honeydew.
Flowers and the aphids that live on them are very attractive to wasps. Bright colors and floral clothing can also confuse wasps into thinking you’re food and bring them buzzing your way. Similarly, flowery or sweet-smelling perfumes are likely to attract an inquisitive wasp or two. This hunt for sugar is the main reason wasps are so plentiful around summer picnics and drinks by the pool. If you feed hummingbirds, you’re also feeding wasps. They’re most likely to seek out sugary foods near the end of the season when the larvae are grown.
If you’re wondering, “Do wasps like water?”, the answer is that wasps need water, just like any other animal. Fresh water in the form of a bird bath, dog water bowl, or puddle after a rain shower is likely to bring thirsty wasps onto your property.
Keeping wasps away
If you don’t want wasps around, there are a few things you can do.
The best way to keep wasps away from your home, yard, or pool and prevent them from building nests on or near your house is to make sure they don’t have a nearby source of food.
Keep trash cans covered and don’t leave food out (including pet food). If you don’t want wasps, don’t feed hummingbirds. Because flowers are big wasp attractors, avoiding wasps means not planting flower gardens or having pots hanging from your roof. If you have a garden, spraying for pests can keep wasps from using it as a hunting ground. However, pesticides can be dangerous for you, your pets, and beneficial insects. You can also make your property itself less attractive by filling in crevices in external walls and filling any holes in your yard. To keep wasps away from your person, avoid strong, sweet perfumes and floral, white, or yellow clothing.
Many things around a home are attractive to wasps: location, building materials, prey, food, and water. Here, we’ve provided an overview of what attracts wasps, including flowers, meat, and sweet drinks. We also covered how to keep wasps from building nests on your property, including cutting down on things they can eat (or things they think they can eat) and sealing up holes. While wasps may be a nuisance when you’re trying to enjoy a nice summer day, they are very beneficial to both natural environments and gardens. They pollinate flowers and control pests that destroy plants.