Most people know that honey bees help to pollinate all the fruits, vegetables and wildflowers we love, and their fuzzy, rounded bodies are almost cute. It is difficult to find anyone with an affinity for wasps and hornets, however. From their sleek and shiny bodies to their angry-looking faces, these insects look like they are built for the battlefield, not the vegetable garden.
That fierce reputation is based in truth, but scientists at North Carolina State University noted that the insects play a crucial role in our natural world. These hunters prey on many insects that humans see as pests, such as flies and caterpillars. In turn, they serve as food for intrepid bears, skunks and birds.
Cover the food
To avoid hornet stings, cover up any food or drink when you're eating outdoors, and keep a tight lid on the trash can, the NC State pest management experts suggested. That will encourage the insects to find their natural food sources.
Wait for winter
Another approach is patience, according to NC State. If you can avoid them for a single summer, the hive will disappear, because hornet and yellowjacket colonies die out when the weather grows cold each winter. The surviving queen sleeps through the season alone, snuggled inside tree bark or old stumps.
If a paper wasp or hornet does fly too close for comfort, the best reaction is to back slowly away, Ohio State University Extension reported. As opposed to the single sting of a honey bee, wasps and hornets can attack repeatedly if they feel threatened. So avoid quick movements and loud noises near their nests.
Another quick tip for avoiding outdoor stings is to skip any soaps and shampoos with strong scents, OSU explained. Cosmetics, colognes and perfumes can aggravate these sensitive insects. Even sparkly jewelry and shiny belt buckles can set them off, so leave the fancy dress clothes for another day if you're attending a backyard barbecue.
After trying these simple steps, homeowners who still get stung may turn to pest control equipment for a solution. The best approach depends on the type of insect, noted the University of Kentucky. Wait until night and stand well back to soak a paper wasp nest with commercial bug spray. Other species are best left to a professional pest control service, since aggressive hornets tend to nest high up in trees and yellowjackets burrow underground.