Ask The County Agent: ‘How do I get rid of insects on my back porch at night?’

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By STEPHANIE BUTCHER, Coweta County Extension Coordinator

Question: What can I spray to get rid of the insects on my back porch at night?

Agent: It may be time for fall, but the weather outside feels more like late summer, and many types of insects are buzzing around homes and late gardens. As we approach fall weather, the local populations of many types of insects like yellow jackets, hornets, moths and various beetles reach their peak, and they come out in full force around doors and windows of our homes, especially at night.

Spraying your home for these flying insects is probably the least effective way to deal with the problem though. If you’re lucky, you might kill a few on any given night with an aerosol spray, but hundreds more of their closest cousins will fly back the next night.  

Yellowjackets leaving an underground nest.

The nests of yellow jackets and hornets are probably a safe distance from your home. As a general rule, yellow jackets tend to nest in the ground, usually occupying old, decayed stump holes. These underground nests are often encountered when someone mows their lawn or passes a weed trimmer too close to their entrance hole. Bald-faced hornets construct aerial nests that hang from tree branches. European hornets typically build nests in hollow trees, barns, sheds, attics or the wall voids of houses.

Note that all wasp, hornet and yellow jacket colonies will die off in the winter and will not reuse the same nest the following year. In most situations, the best option is to leave them alone if you can simply avoid going near the nest for a few more months. If you don’t know where the nest is located, don’t go looking for trouble.   

Many insects are attracted to bright exterior lighting or light shining through windows in homes and may beat into the glass with quite a lot of force. This causes some people to panic, thinking they are trying to break the glass to attack them — which is not true. Hornets and wasps tend to hover incessantly around porches and doorways that have nearby flood lights.

Of course, the simplest solution is to keep exterior lights turned off. When you do use exterior lights, don’t leave them on for extended periods of time. Soft, yellow lights are the least attractive to most insects. Even LED light that is filtered to be yellow or amber in color attracts fewer of the flying insects. Some are sold as “bug lights” intended to make porch lights less attractive to nuisance insects like May and June beetles.  

A recent study from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and the Smithsonian Institution found that blue and ultraviolet lights create other problems for insects and humans beyond their nuisance aspect. Artificial lights can alter normal insect behaviors, interfering with their ability to navigate at night, and has been linked to the decline of insect populations and species diversity on a larger scale.

Changing your porch light or keeping exterior lights turned off is something you should encourage your friends and neighbors to do and ultimately has the least impact on nature. So, instead of buying another can of wasp and hornet spray, consider changing your light bulb. After all, most insects are beneficial if we can learn how to live with them.

For more information about pests and other nuisance animals, contact UGA Cooperative Extension in Coweta County at 770-254-2620 or [email protected]

“The University of Georgia College of Agricultural & Environmental Sciences is an Equal Opportunity, Affirmative Action, Veteran, Disability Institution.”

Photo Credits: University of Georgia Cooperative Extension

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