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Being stung by a wasp or bee is a painful experience and can be life-threatening to anyone who may be allergic to stings. However, it is possible to reduce these risks by taking sensible precautions when outdoors and ensuring that wasp or bee nests are properly managed.

Wasps can also be confused with bees, in particular Honey Bees - however these vary in colour from golden brown to almost black and are furrier than wasps.

Only female wasps have a sting that they can use repeatedly, if they feel threatened. In most cases a wasp sting causes no long term harm, but it can be life-threatening if you are allergic to stings. Treating a wasp nest is often the most efficient way to control a wasp problem and reduce the threat of stings.

Wasps can build nests outdoors under eaves or, if they can gain access, they can find sheltered areas inside your home, such as wall cavities, roof spaces and attics. If a nest is discovered you shouldn’t attempt to get rid of it yourself.

Signs of wasp nests

If you are experiencing high numbers of wasps in your home or garden there is likely to be a nest nearby, either on your property, in your garden or very close by. A mature wasp nest in summer can contain thousands of wasps.

It is important to treat a wasp nest early to reduce the threat of a wasp sting, which can be very painful and even cause an allergic reaction.

Worried about a wasp nest?

You should not attempt to treat a wasp nest if you are sensitive to stings. Being stung by a common or social wasp (also known as a yellow jacket) is a painful experience and can be life-threatening to those who are allergic to wasp stings and may suffer an anaphylactic shock. Also be sure to never remove a wasp nest if it is indoors or is difficult to access. Be sure to never attempt to treat a nest when on a ladder or from a raised height.

If you disturb a nest, you may provoke the wasps inside to attack and sting you as a form of defence.

Identifying a wasp nest

Wasps make their nests from chewed wood pulp and saliva, giving them distinctive papery walls.

Nests are usually built in sheltered spots with easy access to the outside. You can often find wasp nests in wall cavities, roof spaces, under eaves, in bird boxes, sheds or garages.

To locate a nest, carefully watch the flight path of the returning wasps, this becomes easier later in the summer as the numbers of wasps increase.

How big can a wasp nest be?

At first, a wasp nest will start off very small.

When a Queen wasp starts to build a nest in spring it is usually about the size of a walnut or golf ball.

As summer progresses the nest will grow rapidly in size, as the number of wasps increase. A nest can become the size of a football, or even bigger in some cases.

It is best to treat a nest earlier in the year before numbers increase and the wasps become more aggressive.

Difference between wasps and bees

It is possible to confuse wasps with bees. However the treatment available for a wasp nest and a bee hive differ.

Since bees are highly beneficial to the environment and some species are under threat, bees should not be killed and bee hives should be left undisturbed whenever possible. If a bee hive represents a high risk (such as a bee hive in the home or a hospital or near those who are allergic to bee stings), request for bee removal (that the bee hive be moved to a safe area). 

In most cases, removing the bee hive or colony as a very last resort, and only if it is considered a serious threat to people. In the case of honey bees this will only be done after contacting a qualified Bee Keeper.

Treatments for a wasp nest are far more common and can be carried out by a relevant operator who specialises in wasp control and removal. 

Rentokil does not offer wasp nest treatments as part of our usual services packages, however if under extreme threat or if there is an escalation in population, we will treat your wasp problem.

Key facts

The English Wasp (Vespula vulgaris) and the European or German wasp (Vespula germanica) have become established in South Africa.

The Papernest Wasp nests are generally smaller and are the wasp nests you are most likely to see on external surfaces of your home or business.

Other wasp species are also considered pests but are far less common.

  • Wasps have much less hair on their bodies than bees.

  • Wasps have a tighter waist between the thorax and abdomen than bees.

  • Wasps are sometimes mistaken for hornets as they are similar in appearance, but wasps are smaller in size.

  • Wasps have distinctive yellow and black markings on their bodies.

  • They have three main body parts; the head, thorax and the abdomen.

  • Worker wasps vary in size from 12-17mm.

  • Only female wasps sting and can do so repeatedly.

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