New York State IPM Program

August 8, 2016
by Lynn A. Braband
Comments Off on Wasps and Festivals

Wasps and Festivals

One of the great things about living in New York State in the summer and fall is the availability of numerous festivals. It seems like every area has several each weekend. Hard to choose! In addition to sudden downpours, yellowjacket wasps are one of the consistent nemeses of festival attendees. This is especially true in late summer and early autumn when the wasps are present in seasonally high numbers and are attracted to sweets and other food of the ubiquitous concession stands.



Reduce attractants

Although not eliminated, the risks associated with yellowjackets can be reduced. Festival managers and vendors need to pay particular attention to reducing the vulnerability of drinks, food, and waste. Trash cans should be emptied frequently and have lids that close tightly. Regularly police the grounds for discarded trash. Keep exposed food and drinks to a minimum, and provide lids for beverage containers. Every one of these tactics are core to the premise of sound IPM: prevention is your best defense.

Trapping yellowjackets

Some festival organizers have reduced the number of reported stings after adding yellowjacket container traps. The wasps are attracted to a sweet liquid inside the trap and then drown. On-going research at Cornell indicates that use of these traps may reduce the number of yellowjackets by as much as 30%. We and our partners have largely established traps on poles surrounding the concession stand area. Some vendors trap in the immediate vicinity of the concessions.

The suggested protocol is to start trapping about a week before the festival and to continue trapping through the festival. The traps should be serviced daily, especially immediately before and during the festival. There is also evidence that the traps do not merely intercept wasps that would have been present anyway but attract wasps. Thus the best use of the traps is probably when there will already to an attractant, such as concession stands. Some wasps may be able to escape the traps. Use of a surfactant, as dishwater soap, may reduce this.

Personal protection

IPM gets personal: Light-colored clothing is less attractive to wasps than dark- or brightly-colored clothes. Perfumes and strong-smelling soaps and perfumes may also attract them. Avoid erratic movement when a wasp is flying or crawling near you — by which we mean don’t try to shoo them away — or worse, swat them. Keep your food and drinks covered. It is far from pleasant to drink down a wasp! Insect repellents will not deter wasps.

For more information

Please check out our video on yellowjackets and other stinging insects.

July 10, 2015
by Joellen Lampman
Comments Off on Paper Wasps: Friend or Foe?

Paper Wasps: Friend or Foe?

Paper wasps are social, stinging insects that build open-comb nests. These nests are often found on the protected undersides of natural or man-made overhangs. Soft-bodied insects, nectar, and honeydew are important food sources for paper wasps. These insects can be a public health concern when they nest near human activity because of their potent sting.

Wood scraped off this split rail fence will be mixed with saliva and used as nest building material.

Did You Know…?

  • By the numbers: There are 22 species of paper wasps in North America. The two most common paper wasp species in the Northeast are the native northern paper wasp and the invasive European paper wasp.
  • Watching it’s figure: Paper wasps can be distinguished from other wasps and yellowjackets by its very thin “waist”.
  • What’s in a Name?: Paper wasps use their mandibles (jaws) to scrape wood from plants, decks, or siding and combine it with saliva to make a papery nest.
  • Danger!: Paper wasps have unbarbed stingers, so they can deliver multiple stings. European paper wasps in particular are very aggressive when protecting their nest.
  • Look-alikes: European paper wasps are often confused with yellowjackets due to their similar black and yellow color. This species can be distinguished by its dainty waist and the position of its legs when it flies, which dangle below its body. (Yellow jacket legs are much shorter and held tight against the body.)
  • Beneficial Predator: Paper wasps feed their larvae caterpillars which can be garden pests.

    Paper wasps can build their umbrella comb nests under any protected ledge or overhang. Although they are beneficial predators, paper wasps can deliver a painful sting.

    Paper wasps can build their umbrella comb nests under any protected ledge or overhang.

Integrated pest management can help to determine if a paper wasp nest is a danger and what to do if it should be removed. For more information visit:

For more information from the New York State IPM Program on other stinging insects, click here.

April 4, 2013
by Mary M. Woodsen
Comments Off on Don’t bee fooled

Don’t bee fooled

April can fool you all month long. Even if your pest-prevention responsibilities lie mostly indoors where frost and rain rarely intrude — a school, an office building, a museum, your home — April has some tricks up her sleeve. Those perimeter  pests, for example: wasps, bees, ants, termites. For many species of wasps and bees, queens are the only ones that survive the winter, so most likely you won’t see them making their solitary way in early spring. Take yellowjackets, paper wasps, and hornets. They’re out there scouting for nest sites — which means you should be scouting for them.


this starter nest is still small

Scope out entryways, porticos, eaves, and attics for small starter nests — it’s far easier to deal with a queen and a half-dozen workers now than a queen and 5,000 workers later. When you see a nest, knock it down with a broomstick, the spray nozzle on a hose, or even your kid’s Super Soaker. Then step on it. If using the broomstick, best done early on chilly mornings — wasps can’t move fast when it’s cool outside.


About yellowjackets — they’re really aggressive in defense of their nests. Not all species nest where you can see them. Some go underground — nesting in abandoned rodent burrows, for instance. Others find sneaky little holes leading into walls or attics. Get professional help — and never swat a yellowjacket (or any other wasp) — it releases alarm pheromones that call its kin to the scene. In the melee that follows you’re likely to get stung way more than you’d like.


Got bumblebees buzzing around your house? Most likely they’re carpenter bees, actually. Bumblebees look fuzzy; carpenter bees have shiny black bellies. Some are all-black.


Watch as they crawl in and out of their perfectly round holes — these bees are nature’s power drill. Though males will dive-bomb you if you move quickly, don’t be fooled (or frightened!): they can’t sting. Females (less often seen) can sting — but only if you work hard to provoke them. Though new nests are small, carpenter bees can do serious damage as subsequent generations bore deeper into wood to rear their young in turn. How to cope? Start here.


Worried you’ve got termites? They might be ants instead. And both termites and ants can swarm on warm spring days — maybe making you think you’ve got some kind of weird bee instead. But those wings are temporary.


Here’s how to tell termites and ants apart. Termites seem to have just two body parts: rounded heads with straight antennas and cigar-shaped bodies. Ants, au contraire, have three distinct body parts and (more distinctly yet) narrow-waisted hourglass figures. Note their bent antennae, too. Most ants are an annoyance and no more … but carpenter ants can remodel your home — while termites can demolish it. What to do? Begin here: Carpenter ants. Termites.

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