Phoenix has a mild climate year-round and plenty of food, so wasps are among the most commonly seen insects. Unlike their bee cousins, wasps eat both plants and animals. They’re attracted to the same sugary nectars that bees like, but in addition, they need meat, whether it’s in the form of fellow insects or burgers on the grill.
For all the good they do in the garden, wasps don’t discriminate between pets or people when their nests are threatened. Left to their own devices, they are a beneficial species because of their carnivorous, predatory diets. They’re only a nuisance or threat when they live too close to you, your family and pets.
Wasps are Beneficial
They’re such a useful garden insect because they eat aphids, whiteflies, spiders and dead insects. Caterpillars, including the dreaded and devastating tomato hornworms, provide ample food for wasp eggs.
The wasp population also helps pollinate penstemon and figs. Penstemon are bushy plants with bright orange flowers on tall stems, considered springtime weeds by some and showy seasonal flowers by others. Valley fig growers who have fig wasps (Agaonidae) in their yards don’t need to worry about the bee populations in their area. This species and fig trees are mutually dependent.
Common Species in Arizona
Yellow jackets, mud daubers, and paper wasps are the most commonly sighted in the region. Of them, the paper species is the most aggressive. All differ from bees by their lack of body hair. Mud daubers are not aggressive, black and have narrow waists. They’re solitary and build nests from tiny mud balls they bring to their homes, normally found around structures.
Yellow jackets are much more aggressive than mud daubers and live as easily underground in nests as they do inside the eaves or walls of homes. They are omnivores, and they’re unwelcome guests around the meat on the barbecue. They’ll crawl on the edges of soda cans and glasses containing sweet drinks.
Paper wasps are the most dangerous of all the species in Arizona. Their stings are painful and allergic reactions are the most intense. They resemble yellow jackets in appearance but are more slender through their bodies. In spite of being predators for garden pests and their role as pollinators, this species is the most difficult to have in your yard or near the home.
If you see grey hives hanging from a balcony, eaves or the roof, take care when walking near them. The paper wasp zealously guards its nest and like all wasps, can sting multiple times and survive.
Solitary and Social Wasps
Like people, these insects can exhibit a preference for social or solitary behavior. When you see just one around your yard, you could be home to a wasp that prefers to nest alone. Like bees, social wasps may live in groups that number in the 1,000s.
Wasp Management in Arizona
As good as they are for pest management, having hives or nests next to or near your home can be hazardous. When provoked, their attacks are painful and relentless, since the same wasp can sting over and over again. Everyone, including pets, is vulnerable.
When you notice a hive or nest near your home or in a place that endangers your family and pets, note its location and call Budget Brothers Termite & Pest. Trying to remove the nest yourself might end in a trip to the emergency room or a visit from the fire department. Budget Brothers has been safely removing wasp nests in the valley for more than 25 years.