How to Attract Wasps for Organic Pest Management

If you know how to attract wasps to the areas you want them, solitary and even social wasps can contribute to your organic pest management system.

| November 2014

Using native beneficial insects for pest and weed control serves to reduce or eliminate the need for chemical pesticides while improving the biodiversity of your farm or garden. With the inspiration and instructions in Farming with Native Beneficial Insects (Storey Publishing, 2014) from the Xerces Society, you can learn to identify beneficial insects and implement a host of projects designed to improve habitat for them.

You can purchase this book from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS store: Farming with Native Beneficial Insects.

Considerations for Gardeners

Habitat features like beetle banks, brush piles, tunnel nests, and insect hotels can all be scaled down for use in garden settings. Recently cultivated garden beds offer little shelter for ground-dwelling beneficial arthropods taking cover from inhospitable weather, predators that would otherwise dwell under leaf litter and mulch, and those beneficial insects that live part of their life beneath the soil. To support these diverse beneficial insects, gardeners can plant small beetle banks between vegetable beds, or even “beetle bumps,” small mounds planted with perennial grasses, within vegetable plots.

There are other steps you can take to bolster natural pest control by ground-dwelling arthropods. Using leaf mulch or straw in garden beds can offer shelter to predators such as ground beetles, sheet-weaving spiders, and wolf spiders. Consider providing some nesting opportunities for the predatory wasps that hunt common garden pests such as tomato hornworms and armyworms. You can create small wooden nest blocks with only a few openings or make small stem bundles and hang them throughout your yard for predatory wasps. Consider leaving naturally occurring bare patches of ground for nonaggressive ground-nesting solitary wasps that also hunt garden pests. Finally, insect hotels, creative stacks made from myriad materials, can be ideal for gardeners who like to experiment but are pressed for space.

How to Attract Social Wasps

In some cases, it may be worth encouraging social wasps to nest near your crop fields. Paper wasps (Polistes spp.) are important predators of caterpillars. Researchers in North Carolina found that enhancing wasp nesting habitat near tobacco fields reduced the damage caused by tobacco and tomato hornworms, as paper wasps feed the caterpillars to their larvae.

Paper wasps build nests from chewed plant fibers, creating open cells where brood are reared. The entire nest structure is usually suspended from a stalk anchored in a sheltered area, such as under the eave of a barn. New wasp nests are initiated by a mated queen in the spring; the colony grows throughout the summer and eventually dies, except for a new mated queen, in the fall. By midsummer, paper wasp nests may contain between five and 50 individuals.

12/20/2014 12:21:47 AM

These same tube nests can also serve solitary pollinators.

11/24/2014 1:55:02 AM

The first step in wasp or bee control is to correctly identify the insect and in soils with sparse to moderate plant growth, little organic matter, If you crush them they will give off an alarm scent that will attract others wasps. thanks

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