Wasps are never fun to encounter. Their painful stings are enough to send you running. What do you do, though, if you find a wasp nest near your home? How do you safely get rid of it? What natural, non-toxic product can you use to say farewell to those pesky invaders that are trying to destroy the peace in and around your home?
Diatomaceous earth is a natural wasp killer that will help you get rid of any wasp nests that you have around your home. DE powder is non-toxic, non-poisonous, and safe to use around your children and your pets when used as directed.
Social wasps include paper wasps, hornets, and yellowjackets. They live in organized societies, each having a set task that they diligently carry on with. The queen, or queens, produce the offspring, while the other members—the queen’s nonreproductive daughters—care for the young, defend the nest, and gather food.
What Are Social Wasps?
There are about 20 types of social wasps in North America. They are in the family Vespidae and typically fall into the three groups mentioned above: paper wasps, yellowjackets, and hornets. Many social wasps are large, can be quite aggressive, and have frightening stings. They use their stingers, which can sting repeatedly, to protect and defend the colony. Social wasps commonly have narrow wings that fold and build a new nest, either above ground or below ground, of recycled wood fibers every year. The fertilized queen wasps, living for up to a year, are the only wasps to overwinter. All of the other workers, who have a shorter lifespan of less than one month, die with the first frost.
Social wasps are more than just pests. Wasps and hornets keep wild yeast alive during the winter and prey on caterpillars, leaf beetles, and other insects to keep pest populations down. Yellowjackets, like a cleaning service, forage for dead insects to feed their offspring and prevent bodies from piling up.
What Is Diatomaceous Earth?
Diatomaceous earth is a fine powder that is made up of the skeletal remains of diatom fossils. It was formed as ancient diatoms, which are tiny, aquatic organisms that are made up of a natural substance called silica, died and settled to the bottom of rivers, streams, lakes, and oceans. Today, silica deposits are mined from these areas.
On a microscopic level, DE looks like a multitude of tiny hollow cylinders covered in barbs. These microscopic abrasive shards can’t hurt humans or animals, but they can and will cause harm (and death) to insects that have exoskeletons, including fleas, ants, bedbugs, and social wasps. They do so by scratching and piercing the waxy coating that covers the insect’s body.
DE also harms the insect internally. The tiny dust particles cling to any insect that comes in contact with it. When the insect later grooms the powder off their bodies, it poisons them as the DE builds up in their system—they can neither digest nor excrete the substance—and death comes through dehydration. Death, though, does not come instantly. Depending on the insect, it may be several hours to several days.
How Is Diatomaceous Earth Used?
There are numerous uses of diatomaceous earth. It has been known for controlling internal parasites, as a dewormer for pets, as pet and livestock protector against ticks and fleas, to prevent insects from entering your home, as an ingredient in toothpaste, for plant health, as a skin exfoliator, to preserve food, as a natural wasp killer, and the list goes on and on.
Because of its many uses and benefits, it's a brilliant household product to have in your home. It’s great when you run into an issue, like having stinging, aggressive wasps too close to your home, and already having exactly what you need (a natural wasp killer) right in your cupboard.
In using diatomaceous earth, either as a pest control product, for health benefits, or for any of these other uses listed above, we highly recommend the use of food-grade diatomaceous earth. Food-grade DE is a freshwater form of diatomite. It is safe, purified and has low levels of silica. It can be used around your home, your children, and your pets. There is also filter-grade (or pool-grade), which is inedible but has many industrial uses.
What Should I Know about Wasps Nests? How Do I Identify Them?
When needing to rid your home or your property of wasps, it’s important to know where these social wasps typically build their nests. Paper wasps, yellowjackets, and hornets all construct their dwellings of wasp spit, or a paper-like material that is made from chewed wood fibers mixed with saliva. So, the look of their homes may be similar, but the locations are not.
Paper wasps nests famously look like upside-down umbrellas that hang from a short stalk. They are typically small and are built in shaded, high, protected sites like the eaves and overhangs of a building. More specific locations would be behind shutters, under window ledges, in vents, or in attics, porches, or sheds. Paper wasps will also build their nests in outdoor equipment like gas grills, swing sets, and lawn tractors. They are often not concealed.
Yellowjackets build nests similar to hornets, except that the opening can’t often be seen and they are built underground or close to the ground. They are commonly found in rodent burrows, in hollow logs, or in tree stumps. Closer to your home, their nests may be found between walls, under porches or steps, and even in large sidewalk cracks.
Hornet nests, most commonly a bald-faced hornet’s nest, look like bloated gray footballs. They are usually located in wooded areas, attached high up on a tree branch or on a large, outdoor tree-like shrub. They may also be found, though, under the eaves of houses.
How Do I Get Rid of Wasps with Diatomaceous Earth?
Getting rid of paper wasps, yellowjackets, and hornets and their nests, without being stung, is possible. You just need to be mightily calm and careful. Wasps won’t generally sting you, unless they feel that their home is being threatened. So, you just have to be quiet and sneaky.
To further prevent wasp stings, you may also consider suiting up. Using duct tape, tape your pant legs to your boots/socks and your sleeves to your gloves and wear an extra layer of clothing. Wasp stingers are, unfortunately, long enough to reach through one layer of clothing.
- Locate areas. Find the areas in your yard where you traditionally have had wasp issues.
- Wait until dawn or dusk. This is when the wasps are the least active.
- Use Dr. Killigan’s Insect Buster. (You’ll need to first fill this tool with diatomaceous Earth or another non-toxic pest control powder.) Puff a light, but thorough and direct dusting in and around the nest entrance. This applies to both ground nests and above ground nests.
- Monitor wasp activity. DE is not a chemical. Therefore, it has long-term effectiveness and does not lose potency or evaporate, working over a number of days to kill the wasps. If needed, apply a second application after about a week’s time. If there is heavy rainfall, more DE will need to be applied.
Final Word on Getting Rid of Wasps with Diatomaceous Earth
It’s important to wear appropriate clothing when using DE powder. I recommend using gloves, wearing a long-sleeved shirt and pants, and wearing a mask. The dust can irritate your skin and, like most dusts if too much is inhaled, can irritate your lungs. Once the dust is settled, though, there is no need for any type of protective wear.