Does the Viral Paper Bag Wasp Deterrent Trick Really Work?

Here's what experts really think about the popular TikTok hack.

Though we’re well into September, many homeowners are still dealing with pesky wasp invasions. And while there are numerous chemical solutions to eradicate wasps, some people seek gentler and less dangerous methods to deter the pests.

Enter the latest viral wasp solution: using a plain paper bag to force wasps to move out.

The phrase “wasp paper bag trick” has drawn more than 270 million views on TikTok, thanks to its surprising and humorous approach. But is it really effective? In this story, we’ll fact-check the trendy pest control trick.

What is the paper bag wasp deterrent trick?

On TikTok, Pivot Farm (@pivotfarm), a family account for homesteaders Brandelyn and Joe Tafoya, tries the hack. The video’s narrator—presumably Joe—explains:

“I saw somewhere on a video that said if you hang a bag next to your wasp nest it’ll make them move out because they’re super territorial.”

The camera then pans over to show a brown paper bag hanging about a foot or two away from a wasp nest, seemingly devoid of insects.

Here’s the idea behind the paper bag wasp deterrent trick: If you hang a paper bag that’s slightly inflated, the wasps will mistake it for a rival nest and vacate the real hive, avoiding the use of harmful chemicals or expensive treatments.

@pivotfarm Wish I had known this sooner! Chemical free hornet nest removal! #homehacks #househacks #farmhack #hometips #farmtips #homestead #beesnest ♬ original sound – Brandelyn Tafoya

Does the paper bag wasp deterrent trick work?

In the video, Joe Tafoya says he “never thought [the trick] would work.” And yet, he claims, it did: “In about two weeks, they all just left.”

Hundreds, if not thousands, of users echoed their enthusiasm for the method. That includes Jean H. Spin, who according to USA Today posted the trick on Facebook in 2020.

However, experts on wasp behavioUr warn the paper bag deterrent trick isn’t foolproof. Michael Skvarla, Ph.D., an assistant research professor of arthropod identification and director of the Insect Identification Laboratory at Pennsylvania State University, told USA Today the wasps usually aren’t fooled.

“[P]aper bags and other devices don’t stop wasps from nesting because they don’t perceive such objects as nests,” he says.

Why not? “[P]aper bags lack any smells or chemical cues that would indicate they’re nests and do not have worker wasps defending them,” Skvarla says. Ultimately, he adds, “[W]hile wasps are highly visual insects, the simple shape of an object isn’t enough to deter them.”

Are there any risks to using paper bags as wasp deterrents?

Unfortunately, it’s possible hanging a paper bag next to a wasp nest could actually encourage the pests to stay put. That’s because wasps use paper to build their nests, so they may find this a welcome help in crafting their new home.

Additionally, wasps often nest inside commercial products, according to Skvarla. So the paper bag trick may be “providing habitat to wasps rather than deterring them.”

How should I properly deter wasps?

In most instances, Skvarla suggests leaving the wasps be. They serve a purpose in your yard, acting as natural pest control for other insects, like caterpillars and flies. However, if a wasp nest poses an immediate safety risk—say, when it’s in a high-traffic area, or someone in your home is allergic to wasp stings—Skvarla says it needs to go.

To remove a hanging wasp nest, opt for a long-distance spray killer, or even a DIY mix with Dawn dish soap. Apply it in the evening, early in the season. For next year, you can also prepare to eliminate the wasp queen in springtime. Stay safe out there!

Next, check out 13 secrets exterminators want you to know.

The Family Handyman
Originally Published on The Family Handyman