Harmful insects

Do Fake Wasp Nests Really Work?

One model of artificial wasp nest. Photo: amazon.co.uk

You’ve probably seen them in your local garden center or hardware store … or in somebody’s garden. A gray or brown inflated object that looks vaguely like a paper wasp nest. I’ve seen models made of paper stretched over a spiral of wire that look just like a Chinese lantern (without the gaudy colors), others covered made of a grayish felt-like tissue and yet more made of inflated plastic. And some people make their own from a paper bag filled with waste paper.

The idea is the following: you put them up in early spring, before there are any wasps in the sector, hanging them from a branch, a roof overhang or any other structure. When a queen wasp, the one that starts a new colony, sees the repellent, she thinks the territory is already occupied by a rival colony and so goes somewhere else to set up her new home.

A different model of artificial wasp nest. Photo: www.shelmerdine.com

A wasp deterrent in the form of an artificial wasp nest seems like a brilliant idea: after all, no pesticides are needed and it’s easy to use (just hang it up somewhere). But does it really work?

And therein lies the problem!

It’s Hard to Prove a Negative!

A real paper wasp nest is an annual structure. It will only be used once. Photo: Andy Campbell, Wikimedia Commons

By the fall, a paper wasp nest can include over a thousand individuals … but there isn’t much use treating them at this point: all the worker wasps will die very shortly. Only young queens survive the winter to start a new colony in spring.

It’s very hard to prove anything when it comes to wasp nests. Unlike beehives, wasp nests are annual structures, abandoned at the end of the season, and can appear almost anywhere. Queen wasps, the ones who start a new colony each spring, don’t appear to be very picky when it comes to choosing a site. Trees, shrubs, a wood-pile, a house, a hole in the ground, a picnic table, a clothesline: you name it, they’ll try it. Even if you do nothing to prevent wasp nests, in any given year you may find one in your yard or you may not. Some years there can be several even on a small lot, while other years there are none at all.

If you install an artificial wasp nest and no wasps set up shop in your yard that year, it therefore proves … absolutely nothing!

Happy Customers… For a While

This faux nest wasn’t very efficacious, was it? Photo: Monique Lalonde

You’ll see lots of testimonials online from people are thrilled with their wasp deterrent. They really believe the artificial nests keep wasps away. But that was year 1 and maybe year 2. Chances are they won’t be so thrilled as years go by. Because paper wasps seem as oblivious to artificial wasp nests as they are to real ones.

You see, paper wasps frequently set up their new home right near an old nest, sometimes even on the same tree branch. And why not, given that it’s empty? (Again, each colony starts anew each spring, but old, empty nests often remain visible for a year or so.) Why they would they find an artificial nest more threatening than a real one? 

What to Do With Your Useless Wasp Deterrent? 

Since you already bought it, you might as well hang it up somewhere, perhaps as a decoration. Or a conversation piece. Or put a light inside and use it as the Chinese lantern it resembles. 

Just don’t expect it to have any dissuasive effect on wasps!

Garden writer and blogger, author of more than 60 gardening books, the laidback gardener, Larry Hodgson, lives and gardens in Quebec City, Canada. The Laidback Gardener blog offers more than 2,500 articles to passionate home gardeners, always with the goal of demystifying gardening and making it easier for even novice gardeners. If you have a gardening question, enter it in Search: the answer is probably already there!

13 comments on “Do Fake Wasp Nests Really Work?

  1. Xavier B

    Hi,

    I dedicate my life to research… For wasps, it goes as for humans… When there is no plublicated research (and tell me if ther is any) you can’t assure that decoy nests work… or don’t. You will always find some positive experiences or funny counter-example. In life, a few things are a 100% reliable, and if any effect, decoy nests surely would follow this rule.
    So, in the absence of reliable studies, I rely on my own experience.

    I used to have waps every year. Several nests and many fights. Exterminators came , and sometimes failed. Since the day I intsalled permament very cheap decoy nests (6 yers ago) I never had a single issue (with wasps, at least). So I’m glad many people had the same luck than me; I’m sad some had issues, and I know that, one year or another… I will have a nest. But meanwhile, my own experience (which has no scientific value when considered out or my place) tells me a few dollars were way better invested in 2 fake tissue nests than exterminators and insecticides.

    I wish you the same luck 😉

  2. Maybe you can’t prove that it did work, but you can definitely say when the fake nest *didn’t* work. That is more interesting to me.

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  5. I haven’t had a wasp nest in my yard for 4 years, and yet this year, there are 4… of more than one species. That’s just the way things are.

  6. I have been using paper fake wasp nests for about 5 years and we went from dealing with 2-3 nests every year, to none in 5 years. It may depend on the species of wasp though, and a hornet is not a wasp.

  7. Chris Airey

    have to say my experience is different in UK, First bought these artificial paper ones in Canada and they have successfully stopped wasps nesting in our various sheds. We dont leave them up, just put them up in spring. I actually want wasps to nest in the garden as they eat our infamous midges in their millions!. The ones that really dont work are the plastic bag ones, have had wasps actually nest right next to one of these. I think the trick is to put them up just before the queens come out of hibernation and take them down in autumn.

  8. Some believe that plastic baggies filled with water repel wasps. A few years ago, I found that someone had tacked a few zip-lock baggies of water to the walls in the office at work (!). I was a bit annoyed. I was told that, although it will not make the nesting wasps outside relocate, it will keep them out of the office. I was not aware that they came into the office prior to that (!).

    • One could make a fortune coming up with silly ideas about gardening and selling them to the public!

      • and some do.

      • Xavier B

        I agree… Some make a lot more money with selling non-lasting, chemical, unreliable solutions about wasps. We call them exterminators here 🙂 I see no issue if so many people are so lucky with their decoy nests. And I’m fine you only wish to see coincidence. I’ve never been so laidback since I have those two 2 dollars nests. Interesting topic…

  9. we call them hornets, they all die in the fall, but the queen, she drops to the ground & hibernates.
    Lay eggs in the Spring.
    “he main difference between hornets and wasps.

    The best way to tell the difference between hornets and wasps is by colony size. A wasp colony tends to be smaller with fewer than 100 individuals. Hornet colonies are much larger. It’s quite difficult to tell the difference between the insects by appearance. Their nest shape and placement is another good indicator.

    Wasps build nests that are open and suspended from solid objects in protected area such as an eaves or covered porch. Hornets build large fully enclosed nests on trees or in shrubs. Both wasps and hornets will become aggressive if they feel their home is threatened. “https://www.trulynolen.ca/whats-the-difference-between-a-wasp-and-a-hornet/#:~:text=The%20main%20difference%20between%20hornets%20and%20wasps.&text=A%20wasp%20colony%20tends%20to,Hornet%20colonies%20

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