Landcare Research - Manaaki Whenua

Landcare-Research -Manaaki Whenua

Chemical control


Merchento, a Nelson based pest control company, has launched Vespex® ‒ a bait designed specifically for the control of Vespula wasp species.

Vespex® is not attractive to bees, and is of very low risk to birds, pets and people.

Vespex® is only available for sale to persons residing in New Zealand and who are registered with Merchento Ltd as approved users. This is because the bait does contain an ecotoxin, and there are strict stewardship controls in place to ensure that the bait is used in a way that does not present a threat to the environment.

More information

The use of baits has long been recognised as an effective control method for wasps. Worker wasps are attracted to a bait station and feed on a protein food source containing a poison, they then return to their nest spreading the poison around the nest. The advantage of baiting is that you don't have to find and approach nests.

Although baiting is very effective during the current season, in the next season, the area will almost certainly be reinvaded by queen wasps, which can fly many kilometres before establishing a nest. The problem will therefore have to be dealt with each year.

Treating Nest

Both common and German wasps usually build their nests underground, often in sunny spots or along the banks of streams. Nests are also built in hollow trees and can be found under the floor or in the roof space of houses.

As the entire biology of social wasps is dependent on the nest, direct poisoning of wasp nests is the most effective control method. When a nest is found an insecticidal dust or powder can be used, in which the powder is ‘puffed’ into the entrance of a wasp nest. Worker wasps flying in and out of the nest will spread the powder through the nest, and the colony usually dies within a day.

However, the main problem is finding nests. Wasp nests are usually found by watching for ‘lines of flight’ of worker wasps returning to their nest, or walking along tracks or transects searching for nests. This requires some skill, but can also be quite time consuming. It is also impractical over areas of a certain size.

Several products are registered in New Zealand for use against wasps. These products are available most garden and hardware shops, and from their distributors.

Caution: If you are not confident about destroying a wasp nest do not proceed. Only treat nests that are easily accessible and allow a quick and easy retreat. Do not treat the nest yourself if you think you are allergic to wasps. Use only chemicals that are registered for use in your country and read all labels before use.

  • Avoid wet weather as the powder only works as a dry dust.
  • All nests should be treated at night when wasps are less active.
  • Cover yourself fully with clothing and use a red-covered torch — wasps cannot see red light.
  • Approach the nest quietly, and carefully place a spoonful of insecticide in or at the nest entrance or use a puffer bottle to direct the powder into the nest.
  • If the nest is disturbed and wasps emerge during treatment quickly retreat and wait for the wasps to settle down before approaching again.
  • Don't shine the beam of your torch at the nest entrance for too long as wasps will fly up the beam and possibly sting you.
  • Wash your hands and anything else that has touched the powder. Be careful not to breathe any of the dust.

Commercial pest destruction firms will remove nests that are difficult to get at. Your local council may also help, especially if the nest is on council land.


Trapping is when large numbers of wasps (either workers or queens) are lured to a ‘trap’ and killed within it. Placing a traps around an area (e.g. picnic ground) to intercept foraging workers is conceptually simple and appealing. Trapping is also self-fulfilling because ‘dead wasps’ are seen in traps. However, there is no evidence to show trapping is effective, and by itself does not provide area-wide control.

A study in Nelson showed that trapping did not reduce wasp numbers even at individual nests, let alone at the population/landscape level (Spurr 1992). He concluded that trapping is not an effective method of reducing wasp numbers in nearby nests, even when wasp numbers are high.

Other issues with trapping include:

  • By-catch or effect on non-target species
    Attractants for wasps also attract other insect species (native wasps, flies, moths, weta and beetles).
  • What life stage should be targeted?
    Most research has focused on trapping workers to alleviate problems in public amenities during summer. However, trapping queens could be more appropriate, but only if conducted at the ‘right time’ in their life cycle. Of the large numbers of queens a nest can produce, the vast majority (i.e. 99%) die of natural causes. Of most importance to the life cycle of wasps is the ‘spring flush’, where large numbers of queens come out of their overwintering period, but only very few are successful in starting (and maintaining) a successful nest. Thus, trapping before the ‘spring flush’ occurs (i.e. in autumn or winter) is considered the least successful option of controlling wasps, because it only removes queens that are already likely to die.

Essentially wasps do not have the biological characteristics suitable for mass trapping. Wasps are very fast to reproduce; short-lived; they are widespread and present in high densities. It is unlikely that mass trapping can remove worker wasps fast enough to compensate for the high reproductive output of the nest.