Lawn & Garden

This Spicy Condiment Can Keep Yellow Jacket Wasps Away

You might like the kick Tabasco sauce adds to foods, but it turns out yellow jacket wasps are not fans.
Deirdre Mundorf Avatar
close up of a yellow climbing an overripe plum with dried grass in the background


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Spending time outside enjoying the warm weather is one of the many perks of summertime. Sadly, yellow jacket wasps can put a damper on your outdoor fun. This species of social wasps makes frequent appearances, especially when food is involved. Yellow jackets can be very aggressive and often sting if they feel threatened. Some might even bite the skin before stinging, increasing the pain you’ll experience.

Whether you’re allergic to yellowjackets or simply want to enjoy your time outside without worrying about being pestered or getting stung, learning how to get rid of yellow jacket wasps is probably forefront in your mind. Fortunately, a simple condiment already sitting in your pantry might be able to help. Grab that bottle of Tabasco sauce and get ready to send the yellow jacket wasps packing.

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Yellow jacket wasps stay away from Tabasco.

Tabasco sauce being poured on a burger

The next time yellow jacket wasps are invading your outdoor event, try using some Tabasco to keep them away. The insects will smell the spicy condiment and high-tail it out of there to avoid it. All you’ll need to do is pour a little of the sauce out of the bottle and into a few small shallow bowls or plates. Position the plates or bowls at the end of each table or around the area where you’ll be sitting to keep the pests away.

It contains chemicals that are toxic to yellow jackets. 

The reason Tabasco works so effectively to repel yellow jacket wasps is the capsaicin that is found in the chili peppers used to make the sauce. Capsaicin is the chemical that gives chili peppers their kick, sometimes resulting in a burning mouth or even watering eyes when we consume the sauce.

Yellow jacket wasps have a much more severe reaction to the chemical, which is why it can work so well to keep them away. Capsaicin is considered toxic to insects. Exposure to capsaicin will damage the nervous system, membranes, and metabolic processes of a yellow jacket wasp, eventually resulting in its death.

RELATED: What’s the Difference? Hornet vs. Wasp

You can make your own Tabasco yellow jacket repellent.

With Tabasco and a few other ingredients, you can easily whip up a DIY yellow jacket repellent spray. Simply add 1 cup water and 6 tablespoons of Tabasco to a spray bottle. Mix the ingredients together and give them about 30 minutes to sit. Spray the repellent around any areas you want to keep yellow jacket wasps away from (just be careful not to put it anywhere you’ll end up touching to avoid getting it into your eyes).

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Tabasco helps keep ants out of the house.

If you have ants in your kitchen, bathroom, or another room in your house, a little Tabasco can also help keep them away. Mix Tabasco and water, and add about 10 percent salt to the mixture. Spray it along the baseboards and corners of the affected space.

Homemade ant repellent spray mixture in bottle. Person hand spraying insect repellent on home terrace wood boards.

Insects aren’t the only pests that Tabasco can deter.

In addition to working well to deter yellow jacket wasps and other insects, Tabasco can help keep animals away from your garden. As a last resort, spraying your plants with the sauce will make them taste bad to deer, rabbits, and other animals that might stop by to take a nibble. You might have to reapply the spray after it rains to make sure the plants stay unappetizing. If possible, apply in early morning or at dusk, when deer are more likely to browse than beneficial bees.

You can even add a little Tabasco to your bird feeder to prevent squirrels and other animals from eating the seed. While the birds won’t be bothered by the hot sauce, squirrels and rodents will want to stay away from the spicy food.

RELATED: How to Make a DIY Wasp Trap from a Bottle and the Right Bait

A superb lemon butterfly placed on a pink aster flower.

Be careful not to threaten pollinators when using Tabasco.

If you’re going to use Tabasco to keep yellow jacket wasps and other pests away from your yard, do so with care. It is also toxic to honey bees, butterflies, and other beneficial insects. Spraying hot sauce on your plants will keep these pollinators away from your garden or harm them.

The safest use for hot sauce repellents is only when people are outdoors and being pestered by yellow jacket wasps. If you need to use Tabasco in or near the garden, try to wait until after the plants and flowers have finished blooming to ensure you’re still creating a welcoming space for bees and butterflies without threatening their safety.