How To Repel Or Remove Wasps Without Killing Them

Updated: 9th February 2021

How can you repel or remove wasps without actually killing them?

Increasingly, people are understanding that wasps are beneficial to the environment: they are pollinators and helpful as a form or natural pest control in the garden, carrying off aphids to feed their young. We are increasingly evolving beyond the 'kill anything we may think is a threat' position, to trying to find other methods of dealing with every day issues and concerns. 

Elsewhere on my website I have a page featuring images and information sent in by other readers who decided to brave it out, and leave the wasps alone.  they include a wasp nest in a porch overhang, one in a barbecue, and yet another in a bird house.  All of the readers were pleased to share the experience, and you can read more on my page about wasp nests.

Another reader photographed the insides of an abandoned wasp nest, and took the completely empty remains to her local junior school to provide an interesting topic of conversation and learning!  Social wasp nests are amazing structures on a par with honeycombs.  Read about it on my page: structure of a social wasp nest.

Ball shaped sandy coloured wasp nestThis wasp nest was in our attic. We had no idea it was there until we discovered it when we were retrieving a box of Christmas decorations. By then, the nest was long abandoned. The wasps had not bothered us at all.

Below are a few thoughts and ideas for you to try, but first:

Removing wasp nests - 
A few things to consider

grey ball shaped wasp nest hanging from a shed ceilingA nest like this found in the garden shed will probably be abandoned later in the year. Personally I would leave the structure in place at least for a while, to deter other wasps. Adding an inexpensive piece of net curtain may serve as a temporary barrier - and actually be cheaper than pest control call out fees. Ensure the wasps are guided out of their usual escape route.
  • Aerial wasp nests only last a season.

  • You are more likely to be bothered by wasps later in the season when the colony is well developed.

  • If you find a small nest, about the size of a golf ball, it may be a solitary wasp.  This nest will be small, with a queen, and only a handful of wasps reared at its peak - usually not a major cause for concern.  

  • Sometimes, it is possible to put in place some net curtain or similar to serve as a barrier.  The netting can be reused at a later date if necessary.  You can pick up cheap net curtaining from thrift stores or charity shops.
a wasp on a leaf, front view.  Mandibles (jaws) are on display, and the wasp has a hairy bodyWasps are hairy, and like bees, they are also pollinators. They are helpful in the garden too, as pest control.

What we really need to do is stop or prevent the wasps bothering us

If you really must remove an active wasp nest with many, many wasps, you will not be able to do this yourself, and will need to seek the assistance of a professional. 

I am not aware of any pest controllers who remove active wasp nests without killing the wasps, but I do wonder whether some day they will begin trying out relocation!  How this could work with wasp nests that are attached to a structure, I'm not sure - presumably it would be done at night by a person completely covered in very protective clothing.

If you have a nest built by a solitary wasp, why not leave it?  Solitary wasp nests are small, with just one queen wasp providing for just a few wasps.  In my view, they shouldn't cause much of a problem.

The truth is, I'm not aware of any methods of simply removing and relocating a wasp nest with the whole colony intact. 

So, if we do not wish to harm or kill the wasps, what we need to do is dissuade them from bothering us for the period that they are around. 

In this way, we can get rid of wasps without killing them, whilst allowing them to get along with their jobs in the eco-system.

Here are some ideas:

Repelling wasps

1. Wasps around the BBQ, picnic table; repelling wasps when eating outside

Wasps when camping out doors 

You are more likely to be bothered by wasps later in the season, when there are more workers, males (drones) and generally more mouths to feed.  Please note, male wasps cannot sting.

You may find they are attracted to sweet drinks, jams and cakes.

There are some suggestions that they are attracted to bright colours (although not red).

Try the following tips:

  • Hang a 'Waspinator' by your barbecue or eating area. They mimic wasp nests which (because wasps are territorial) drives them away and deters wasps from building nests. 

    Another theory is that a bag of water with a shiny coin inside helps to deter wasps. Apparently, the sound of the coin causes a very high pitched vibration wave the wasps don't like. Is this correct, and does it work? I have no idea, but would be interested to hear of any success or otherwise with this method!
  • Cover sweet and sticky drinks and foods.

  • If you have a large garden area, try distracting wasps away from your eating area by placing suitable food items at a safe distance, to  attract them away from you, such as over ripe fruit, sugar water, banana skins.

  • Keep bare feet covered - especially where children are concerned.

  • Use a safe, deet-free insect repellent. Try a repellent containing Picaridin.

  • Do not eat close to open bins, and generally ensure the lids of household refuse containers are kept firmly in place.

  • Do not plan your eating areas or have your picnics in a location close to soft fruit trees - especially ripe plums or apricots, for example. 

  • There is a theory that wasps are attracted to perspiration, so wear an anti-perspirant!  There are even versions available containing natural insect repellents.

  • If you are camping, check whether some of your clothing and equipment (such as sleeping bag, rucksack) can safely be sprayed with a deet-free repellent.

2. Wasps around children and babies and their prams

  • Try a wrist band insect repellent for children. Many are deet free and suitable for children (you could also try a deet-free spray - check that it is suitable for children/babies first). 
  • Again, keep away from areas wasps love, such as bins and soft fruit trees.  Dispose of food waste properly, or keep it in a sealed container safely tucked away until you are able to do so. 

  • Try spraying a top pram cover or clothing with a natural, deet-free insect repellent.  Check that the repellent you use is safe for this purpose before doing so, especially where babies are concerned. 

  • Clean away and dry children's hands and faces after and during eating, and change clothing that has had spillages - especially things like fruit juice and ice cream down vests.

  • Clean away food and liquid spillage around children.

  • Ensure food is covered.  On picnics, try to take yummy foods that can be popped into the mouth and kept in a sealed container.  Ensure drinks are covered and your child uses a straw.

  • Don't let your children run around in bare feet - including on lawns.  Keep feet covered.

  • Check to see if children's clothing/hats can be sprayed with a suitable deet-free repellent.

3. Wasps near the house, window, office, porch, front door or garden shed, or guttering

Firstly, try to keep them out of your house, office or building:

  • Keep sweet drinks, cakes, soft fruit away from the windows! 

  • Tape net fabric securely to the windows to prevent wasps entering.  Net fabric can be purchased cheaply and be quite effective as a temporary solution.

  • However tempted you are to splat the wasps, don't - you'll only attract more of them!

  • If you are especially concerned, try a deet free, non toxic insect repellent sprayed on the net fabric or around the windows and doors (check it won't be flammable, even in direct sunlight, and you may have to spray the curtain again).  Check the repellent can be safely used in such a way first.


Try the bag and coin trick described above, and hang a Waspinator to prevent wasp visitors next season!

Remember, wasp nests only last a season, but if you have an old, unused nest and want to deter wasps from building a new nest in future, then you should only remove part of the old nest - or leave it alone. 

Because wasps are territorial, the remains of the old nest will discourage new queens looking for nest sites (one theory is that the remains of the old nest will look like a new nest is already being constructed by another wasp queen).

Wasps play an important role in the ecosystem.  Read about:

Wasp Pollination

a yellow and black wasp queen on a pale pink rose flower.