How to keep wasps away: 7 natural ways to repel summer pests

Need to know how to keep wasps away from your home and garden? Try these natural, harmless deterrents

Collage of 3 natural methods to show how to keep wasps away without harming them
(Image credit: Future | Getty Images | Future)

It's wasp season, the time of year when throwing open the windows or dining alfresco welcomes these hazardous flying pests. To help you enjoy the summer without the threat of being stung, we've asked pest control experts how to keep wasps away from your house and garden - for good.

Wasps are the unwanted guest at every summer soiree that can strike fear in the heart of so many, as they swarm around with a relentless buzzing and no regard for personal space. Not only are they annoying, but you also risk being stung if you try to shoo them away. The best way to avoid having to get rid of wasps is to deter them from entering the places you want to be.

We're looking for kinder ways to keep wasps away, like when seeking how to get rid of flies, to ensure dining alfresco during the summer heat is a treat and not a constant battle of trying to chase them off. Whether you are allergic, afraid, or simply want a peaceful outdoor experience, here are six easy ways to keep wasps away without harming them.

How to keep wasps away: 7 natural repellants to try 

All the best ways to keep wasps away involve utilizing their sense of smell. "Wasps, like every insect, possess a keen sense of smell," explains Kameliya Ilieva, Pest Control Specialist at Fantastic Services (opens in new tab). "This attracts them to food sources but is also how you deter them from your home or garden."

1. Choose citronella candles

garden coffee table with tealight holders, candles, books and glass of Gin and tonic

(Image credit: Future)

Create ambiance and deter wasps at the same time by burning citronella candles, which are famed for an easy way to keep wasps, flies, and other airborne pests away – making them the best scented candles for summer.

"Citronella candles are a simple but effective way to repel wasps without having to kill them or spray chemicals around your children and pets," says Walter Murphy, pest control expert at PriceYourJob (opens in new tab). "They release a fresh, distinctive odor that will make your alfresco setting difficult to locate for wasps, bees, flies, and other insects too. Most supermarkets, homeware, and hardware stores stock citronella candles. They can also be bought as tealights, so you can place them around your garden in candle holders."

2. Keep food covered

Bee printed linen food cover over bowl to show how to keep wasps away from food during summer dining

(Image credit: Helen Round)

An easy way to keep wasps away is to take away the temptation to feast on a table filled with food, whether out on a picnic or entertaining friends in an outdoor living room space. Keep everything well-covered until you are ready to eat to keep them at bay.

"The longer your food is out, the bigger the chance of attracting wasps and other swarming pests," says Walter. "Covering food is the best way to deter wasps, as they are less likely to smell it. If you are 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 cannot access the food.

We love these Bee Reusable Linen Bowl Covers, $24.34/£20 set of 3, by Helen Round (opens in new tab). But you can use unturned bowls and clingfilm wrap to do the job without styling the table.

3. Make DIY lids for sugary drinks

Outdoor drinks with DIY cupcake lids to keep wasps away

(Image credit: Future)

Even if you're not serving food and sweet treats, any sugary drinks, like fizzy pop or alcohol, will attract wasps in a heartbeat so it's advisable to keep them covered to deter wasps from diving in and from even coming near because they'll be less likely to pick up on the sweet scent. 

You can make your own drink 'hats' by using cupcakes or muffin cases! All you do is pierce a hole a small hole in the top through which you can feed a reusable straw so you can keep the cover on while you sip. This is a great idea to ensure no drinks left unattended end up with an undetected wasp inside.

4. Mist with peppermint oil

Peppermint oil on an outdoor table as a method of how to keep wasps away

(Image credit: Getty Images | Helin Loik-Tomson)

Spritz a room or outdoor area with peppermint essential oils or use an essential oil diffuser to repel wasps naturally. "Essential oils are excellent wasp repellents," says Kameliya. "The most popular is peppermint oil, which also repels lots of other insects as well. It is also a natural ingredient, which will not harm them but will deter them effectively." 

"Use this to your advantage and create an easy, DIY powerful peppermint repellent spray," suggests Walter. "Simply shake a tablespoon of peppermint oil with four cups of water in a spray bottle. 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." 

5. Surround yourself with strong scents

coffee grounds in a wooden bowl as a suggestion for how to keep wasps away

(Image credit: Getty Images | Ekaterina Fedulyeva)

There are household food types that wasps hugely dislike, such as coffee and cloves. These can act as key deterrents when placed around an area where you are looking to keep wasps away.

"Wasps have an incredible sense of smell and detest the powerful odor of certain food sources," explains Walter. "Smells that discourage wasps include fresh mint, ground coffee, cloves, and tomato stems." Keep these on hand to deter wasps during your time outside.

Coffee grounds in particular are a great sustainable living choice for your home as you can reuse leftovers from your morning brew to fill a bowl to emit the smell that wasps hate, but many homeowners adore. Coffee grounds can also be used as a good source of fertilizer for your best garden. plants or alternatively as a much-loved DIY body scrub – as tested by our own Beauty Editor.

6. Plant strongly scented herbs

Strongly scented herbs in garden planter on wall beside patio as an idea for how to keep wasps away

(Image credit: Getty Images)

There are certain strong scents of much-loved garden plants that act as natural deterrents for wasps. "As well as enhancing your garden and providing a pleasant scent to you, wasps will become naturally repelled by aromatic plants," explains Walter.

"Plant spearmint, thyme, eucalyptus, wormwood, and citronella around locations where you’ve previously seen wasps," advises Kameliya. "That will keep them at bay and ensure you can have a nice picnic or barbeque in your garden without them buzzing around."

7. Make your own tempting trap

Jam jar DIY wasp trap to keep wasps away from outdoor dining areas

(Image credit: Future)

Knowing their fondness for all things sweet, the easiest way to keep wasps away from an outdoor dining area is to create a sweet tempting trap that will divert the pests from swarming the table. 

Simply upcycle a jam jar to make a harmless yet effective trap, we can confirm this simple idea really does work, and it offers a humane way to keep irritating wasps away from any outdoor entertaining area.

What you'll need:  

  • Jam jar (nearly empty, with just a small amount of jam left)
  • Drill
  • Small hammer

How to make a harmless DIY wasp trap:

  • Source an almost-empty jam jar, or honey pot, with just a small amount of sweet contents left in the bottom. Start by removing the lid. 
  • Safely drill a hole in the lid, making it big enough that wasps can enter but small enough that getting out proves challenging. 
  • Tamper the edges of the hole with a small hammer to ensure there are no sharp edges – that both you or the wasps could potentially catch on.
  • Screw the lid back on the jar. Putting a small splodge of jam on the lid will entice them further.
  • Place the jar a safe distance away from your outdoor entertaining area to direct the wasps to that in place of your own feast.

For an inhuman version of this trap, many fill the jar with water so the wasps fly in and fail to swim free – but there's no real need to do so because the hole will make it difficult enough for them to escape after they are lured in by the sweet smell of jam. Just be aware that you will have a jar of possibly angry trapped wasps. They should find their own way out over time, so just stay cautious around the jar to avoid coming into contact with them. This idea merely buys you some valuable wasp-free time.

Does vinegar keep wasps away?

In addition to the multiple ways of cleaning with vinegar, it turns out you can also use vinegar to keep wasps away. 

"Vinegar is another natural ingredient that is effective against wasps and can be used to keep them away," suggests Kameliya. "Spraying a mixture of vinegar and water will irritate their sense of smell and keep them at bay without harming them."

"You can create your own DIY spray to keep any wasps away from your garden or outside working areas. Fill an empty spray bottle with equal parts white vinegar and water, and you’re all set. Remember, you can spray different areas outside, but it will only work for a limited time, as this is a temporary solution." So be sure to mix up enough solution to last the duration of your stay outdoors.

We recommend spaying the diluted solution on table linens and other upholsteries that can be washed, should you find the vinegar smell a little overpowering – however, it shouldn't linger for too long.

What stops wasps coming near you?

It's thought that what you wear is more than just a fashion statement, it's a way to stop wasps from coming near you according to the pest experts who recommend avoiding bright colors. "As well as being guided to food by their sense of smell, wasps are drawn towards bright colors," explains Walter. "Therefore, it's best to avoid wearing bright clothing, as this could attract hordes of wasps."

"Instead, wear light and pale colors to significantly reduce your chance of getting stung. White, tan, cream or grey are considered 'safe' colors, as opposed to yellow, orange or red, which may be perceived as a threat." Time to dig out your best classic white t-shirt for this weekend's garden party.

What not to do when trying to get rid of wasps

There are key things to remember when trying to keep wasps away, such as the very obvious fact that they sting. "The worst thing you can do is start flapping your arms in an attempt to swat it away," warns Walter. "These movements can excite or enrage the wasp, making it more likely to sting you. Even though it is hard, the best thing to do is to stay as still and calm as possible."

Not that we advocate harming wasps to keep them away, but there's a very good reason why it's not effective. Walter explains, "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."

Of course, our natural ideas and suggestions are for keeping wasps away on a smaller scale, if you have a nest it's best to call in the professionals. "If you are dealing with an active nest in your garden and it is hard to reach, do not try and attempt to remove it by yourself," Walter warns. "Dealing with a nest without the proper equipment or training can open you up to all sorts of dangers. 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."

Tamara Kelly
Tamara Kelly

Tamara is a highly experienced homes and interiors journalist, with a career spanning 19 years. Now the Lifestyle Editor of womanandhome.com, she has spent the last 16 years working with the style teams at Country Homes & Interiors and Ideal Home, and it’s with these award-winning interiors teams that she gained a wealth of knowledge and honed her skills and passion for shopping, styling and writing about every aspect of lifestyle and interiors.


With a keen eye for the latest interior trends, there's not a lot she doesn't know about home decor – whether it’s what colour we should be painting our living rooms next season, or if the latest 'must-have' buys are actually worth investing in.


A true homes and interiors expert, Tamara has served as an ambassador for leading interior brands on multiple occasions, including appearing on Matalan’s The Show and presenting at top interiors trend events such as the Autumn Fair and Spring Fair.