How to keep wasps away: Avoid that buzzing pest when eating outside

If you're looking to have a lovely picnic with your friends and family, you won't be alone for long. Wasps are pesky pests, buzzing around and trying to steal your food. How do you keep wasps away, and what are some good wasp repellents?

How can you keep wasps away from you and your family?
How can you keep wasps away from you and your family?  © 123RF / Viktor2013

Is there anything better than a good piece of fruit, some lovely jam, some fruit juice, a cold beer, or scrumptious cake? Wasps are freaks for these foods, as are humans, and these intrusive black and yellow insects make a habit of swarming to the picnic blanket in an attempt to take part in the feast.

Interestingly, whilst wasps are famous for their love of sugary food, their true affair is with meat and animal proteins, which they take back home to their larvae. The real problem, though, is their stingers. Life-threatening for some, painful for most, there's no shortage of reasons for truing to keep wasps away when we're trying to have a nice outdoor meal.

TAG24's guide has a list of tactics and natural wasp repellents available in your home, helping you keep those wasps away from your family, house, and food.

Don't have much time? Here's a quick TL;DR:

  • You shouldn't make a habit of killing wasps. They are important for our ecosystems and in some places considered protected species.
  • Use water and sprays to repel wasps.
  • Sweet smells, and bright colors often attract wasps, as does open food.
  • Offer wasps an alternative food source that's a good distance away, to keep the wasps from seeking out the human food.

How to keep wasps away from yourself, your house, and your food

When you're out and about with your family, having a lovely picnic with your friends, or simply dining outside at a restaurant, the last thing you want is to be harassed by wasps. These little buggers are truly a pain in the backside, and their stings can be incredibly painful, so how the heck do you keep them away?

Here are a few tips and tricks for keeping wasps away:

  • Avoid wearing strong-smelling, sweet perfume.
  • Do not wear brightly colored clothing or use brightly colored table linen when outside.
  • Cover all food and drink when it is outdoors.
  • Install a dummy wasp nest.
  • Regularly pick up fallen fruit in the garden.
  • Always clean up leftovers.
  • Wash mouth and hands thoroughly after eating ice cream and other sweet foods.

It is not hard to take basic measures to lower the risk of a wasp harassing you, and it's worth the trouble.

Many sweet scents attract wasps, but other smells repel them.
Many sweet scents attract wasps, but other smells repel them.  © Unsplash / James Wainscoat

Keep wasps away with natural home-made wasp repellents and remedies

You can't just rely on basic cleanliness to keep wasps away from you. Even if you cover all of your food, brush your teeth thoroughly, and take all the measures listed above, you may still get harassed. Luckily for you, though, there is a lot that you can do with basic household items.

Here are a few great ways to keep wasps away with home remedies.

Top tip: One of the best ways to keep these little critters away is to remove their nest. Be careful, though, follow our instructions, and preferably get a professional to do it for you.

Keep wasps away with water

Possibly one of the most simple ways to keep wasps from harassing you is to keep a spray bottle at hand filled with tap water. When you start getting harassed by these buzzing belligerents, start spraying at them. The wasp will think that it's raining and will retreat back to its nest.

How to keep wasps away with smells

Wasps are very sensitive to different smells, preferring to stay away from particular plants, foods, and odors. Using these smells can help to stop wasps from coming near you, chasing them away with a foul odor they truly detest.

Here are a few smells that will keep wasps away:

  • Fresh garlic (leave a sliced-up some cloves nearby)
  • Basil (plant it in the garden or put a pot on the table)
  • Cloths soaked in ammonia
  • Essential oils like citronella, clove oil, or tea tree oil
  • Lemon (slice one in half and leave it on the table with some scented cloves)
  • Burnt coffee powder in a fireproof bowl
  • Copper coins (rub them together and spread them across the table)

Please note: Many of these smells can be pretty unpleasant for humans too. Keep that in mind when choosing which one you want to use.

Use a wasp lure to keep them away from humans.
Use a wasp lure to keep them away from humans.  © Unsplash / Bill Mackie

Keep wasps away with decoys

It's actually not very hard at all to build yourself a decoy. Don't use traps that torture the wasps, that's just inhumane and cruel. Instead, build a homemade lure with basic kitchen ingredients to keep them away by making them happy.

In other words, the best decoy is an alternative food source that's located a sufficient distance away from where you will be chilling.

Here are some food sources to keep wasps away:

  • Grapes
  • Fruit juices
  • Cooked ham and poultry cold cuts
  • Minced meat
  • A mixture of jam and honey
  • A plant that is infested with aphids

Try not to kill the wasps, but instead spread the chosen ingredient on a small dish that they can crawl on and munch away. If it is a fruit, slice open the fruit so that they can get at the sugary insides!

Hot tip: Try to always offer wasp food at the same location, so that they remember it and always seek out this spot for a good feed.

Keep wasps away with a fake paper wasps nest

It is very easy to build yourself a fake paper wasps nest and will work wonders to keep them from building their hives near where you like to eat. You only really need four ingredients: a brown paper bag, some crumpled up newspaper, tape, and some string.

How to make a fake paper wasp nest:

Step 1: Open a large paper bag and stuff it with crushed newspapers.

Step 2: Tape the opening of the bag closed and scrunch it up a little bit more so that it is in the rough shape of a wasp nest.

Step 3: Use the string to hang it nearby. Make sure that it is covered and protected from the rain.

This is not a totally fool-proof method, and won't do a perfect job, especially if there is already a wasp nest nearby, but helps as a deterrent against hive building.

Best wasp repellents

With the advent of the internet, we have a huge range of wasp repellents and deterrents available to us at the click of a button. Many online shops will allow you to buy all sorts of things, but we'd also recommend going to a gardening shop and talking with the sales assistant about the best commercial options available.

Potential wasp repellents include:

  • Various sprays that you can put on yourself or your surroundings
  • Professional fake wasp nests
  • Anti-wasp candles, essential oils, and other burners

We recommend using home remedies to keep wasps away, as they are less harmful to the environment than chemical ones. You can also use certain plants, as discussed below.

Wasp repelling plants

There are a huge variety of garden plants that you can use to keep wasps away. These plants often have a very strong but pleasant smell to humans, and are a great way to dissuade wasps from joining the party.

Some good wasp repelling plants include:

  • Spearmint and peppermint
  • Basil
  • Eucalyptus
  • Cloves
  • Citronella
  • Bay leaves
  • Lemongrass
  • Thyme

Many of these wasp repelling plants can also be used in their essential oil form to help keep wasps away from your gathering.

Are wasps dangerous?

Wasps are not dangerous to most people, but can cause anaphylaxis – a severe allergic reaction – in some. This is an incredibly dangerous condition for those inflicted, and requires immediate medical attention.

Common symptoms of anaphylaxis include:

  • Serious swelling across the body
  • Swelling of the throat, causing the restriction of airflow to the lungs
  • Severe tongue swelling that can also restrict airflow
  • Shortness of breath
  • Vomiting
  • Itchy rashes
  • Light-headedness
  • Loss of consciousness

IMPORTANT: If you have been stung by a wasp and are showing signs of anaphylaxis, make sure to take an EpiPen immediately if one is available. Emergency services should be called straight away after taking the EpiPen.

If no EpiPen is available, make sure you tell 911 responders, as this greatly increases the level of danger associated with anaphylaxis. Antihistamines are known to provide minor relief in such situations, but an ambulance will still be needed immediately.

Is it okay to kill wasps?

There are a bunch of good reasons not to kill wasps. In many countries, it's actually illegal, and so is destroying their nests without proper permission and the help of a professional. This is because wasps are a protected species and critical for the environment.

Killing a wasp is also just not in your self-interest. When a wasp is crushed or killed, it releases something that's going to make your life even more difficult: pheromones that then attract other wasps to the scene of the crime.

In other words, you shouldn't kill wasps because if you do, you will simply attract more of them to your location and make the situation worse.

Wasps are easy to drive away, don't worry!

There are a variety of different ways to keep wasps away when we're feasting with our family. From simple water sprays to more complex home remedies, almost all of these black and yellow insects can be kept away with a few simple measures.

To get rid of wasps and chase them away, there's no need to kill them. If you heed these simple tips, tricks, and wasp repellents, you will keep wasps away without the need for violence.

Cover photo: 123RF / Viktor2013

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