You’re sipping an ice cold white wine in your favourite beer garden when the familiar sound of buzzing reaches your ears. Before you know it, there’s a yellow jacket crawling over your glass without a care in the world.
How can you deal with such pesky invaders – especially when you’re likely to be spending much more time outdoors this summer?
Walter Murphy, pest control expert at PriceYourJob, shares his advice on how to safely get rid of wasps when you’re eating and drinking outside.
1. Don’t swat them
It might feel like the most natural reaction, but if a wasp decides to crash your lunch, the worst thing you can do is start flapping your arms in an attempt to swat it away. “These movements can excite or enrage the wasp, making it more likely to sting you,” says Murphy. So what should you do instead?
The best thing to do is to stay as still and calm as possible, he suggests. “If you kill one wasp, you may think you have solved the problem. However dead and dying wasps emit pheromones that attract other wasps to the area, so you are potentially worsening the situation.” Great.
2. Avoid bright colours
As well as being guided to food by their sense of smell, wasps are drawn towards bright colours – so you might want to keep your fluorescent garms locked in your wardrobe for another day.
It’s best to avoid wearing bright clothing or planting colourful flowers in your garden, as this could attract hordes of wasps, says Murphy. “Instead, wear light and pale colours to significantly reduce your chance of getting stung. White, tan, cream or grey are considered ‘safe’ colours, as opposed to yellow, orange or red, which may be perceived as a threat.”
3. Burn citronella candles
Citronella candles are a simple but effective way to keep wasps at bay without having to kill them or spray chemicals around your children and pets. The candles release a fresh, distinctive odour that will make your dinner difficult to locate for wasps, bees, flies and other insects too.
Most supermarkets, homeware and hardware stores stock citronella candles, and they can also be bought as tealights, so you can place them around your garden in candle holders.
4. Cover your food
The longer your food is out, the bigger the chance of attracting wasps and other swarming pests. “Covering food is the best way to deter wasps,” says Murphy, “as they are less likely to smell it.”
So, if you’re on a picnic, pack your food in Tupperware boxes and uncover it as you need, instead of laying it all out at once. If you’re eating at a table, cover the food once everyone has been served.
Even if you can only cover your food with a mesh cloth, the wasp will eventually give up and fly away once it can’t access the food, the pest expert suggests.
5. Grow strong smelling plants
This is one for those eating at home. Wasps have an incredible sense of smell and detest the powerful odour of fragrant plants like fresh mint, ground coffee, cloves and tomato stems.
“As well as enhancing your garden and providing a pleasant scent to you, wasps will become naturally repelled by the aromatic plants,” says Murphy.
6. Spray peppermint oil
And if you don’t have strong smelling plants on hand, wasps and hornets are instantly repelled by the scent of peppermint.
To make a DIY oil, simply shake a tablespoon of peppermint oil with four cups of water in a spray bottle, Murphy advises. Before you sit to have your meal, spray the solution around your dining area. “This is an effective method to drive the wasps away, without using harmful chemicals or killing them.”
7. Call a professional
If there’s a wasp’s nest in your garden and you’re getting bombarded every time you leave the house, you might want to call the experts in.
“Dealing with a nest without the proper equipment or training can open you up to all sorts of dangers,” says Murphy. “The wasps might swarm out to defend their home, resulting in multiple stings. Whilst smoking out a wasp’s nest will remove it; this may cause a fire which can easily get out of control.”