I live on the 17th floor of a high-rise and would like to try growing some vegetables on my balcony; however, I fear that the nasty aggressive paper wasps that frequent my balcony most of the summer will deter or prevent me from enjoying the “fruits” (vegetables) of my labour. They are very aggressive and I am sensitive to insect bites and stings. Do you have any suggestions?
Thank you kindly.
Thank you for contacting the Toronto Master Gardeners.
You describe the wasps that frequent your balcony as very aggressive. Paper wasps, however, are relatively non-aggressive unless they are defending their nest. Adult paper wasps feed on flower nectar and juice from fruits, while hunting for caterpillars to feed to their young. Therefore, paper wasps are actually more beneficial than harmful. Here is an article from Clemson University Extension on paper wasps for further information and removal if there is a paper wasp nest on your balcony. If there is no paper wasp nest near your balcony for them to defend, they can probably be left alone. Paper wasps will help control the caterpillar population on your vegetables and also act as (relatively inefficient) pollinators. If you are not planning on growing fruit, then there should be no competition between you and the paper wasps.
Yellowjackets, on the other hand, are notorious for their aggression and indiscriminate attraction to all things sugary in late summer. Scientists may point out that they have a legitimate ecological role and can act as pollinators, but that does not mitigate my distaste for them. I put up traps to lure them away from my patio and to control the population. I also put up decoy nests in the hopes of detering queens from establishing a colonies on my property (so far, no real nests found). I have not had to use insecticidal sprays. Here is a comprehensive fact sheet from the Ohio State University Extension on yellowjackets to help you determine the identity of the wasps that visit your balcony.
We wish you the best of luck.