The Bug Doctor: Adam Villareal, owner and president of Insight Pest Solutions, entomology nerd, and family man. To help demystify the world of bugs, the Bug Doctor answers your questions during our weekly “Ask the Bug Dr.” blog feature. You can submit your bug and pest control inquiries for him on our Facebook page, by tweeting @insightpest, or commenting below.
A hornets’ nest can be scary and dangerous though these insects for the most part are beneficial and remove unwanted garden pests. They also do a small amount of scavenging but, when in close proximity to us they initiate an almost primal fear. Their primary defense is the dreaded sting with the one-for-all and all-for-one defense tactics. The fact they are willing to lay down their lives for their sisters and the hive is honorable.
Removing a hornets’ nest can be challenging but as long as you have the right and/or professional help, you’ll be able to get the job done.
Photo Credit: Jena Fuller
How do you get rid of a Hornets’ Nest?
I highly suggest if you are not fully confident in your abilities and/or protective gear you should contact a professional to deal with large nests as they can be quite dangerous to address. Professionals will use safety and specialty equipment that allow them to treat from a safe distance or allow them to get up close and personal. If you are still determined, here is more information about hornet biology, what to look for, and a few treatment options.
Hornet biology break down:
What does a hornets’ nest look like?
A hornets’ nest is a paper-like structure made from wood chewed by hornets. The size of a hornets’ nest can depend on the size of the colony but can be as large as a basketball. Most nests are shaped in the form of a teardrop and contain one single entrance.
How does one locate a nest?
Follow the flight patterns of the hornets you can identify. As you get closer to the nest it will seem like a miniature airport with flights arriving and departing. You could also try putting out a piece of fruit, tray of sugar water, or a small piece of meat where you have noticed hornet activity. These items during the proper time of the year (late summer to early autumn) may attract hornets and allow you to track back to the hive.
Photo credit: wplynn
How to identify a hornet nest:
Nests are predominantly aerial in nature or in very protective locations. Most nests are about the size of a basketball made of a paper mache-like material.
What to expect:
Typically about 100-700 workers. Almost all will be predominantly nonbreeding females that do all the work from rearing young to foraging for food. Large nests will have multiple breeding queens (2-6). Males eat food and chase females.
Workers are active from April to early August. Reproductives produce from mid-July thru November. At the end of November, the colony over-winters until spring and the process is repeated.
Hornets and wasps have a smooth stinger (like a fencing sword) and are able to sting multiple times without any ill effects, unlike bees who have a barbed stinger (like a harpoon) and die once they sting you. Remember that it is “all for one and one for all”. Once disturbed all that are capable in the hive will rally to defend it with their lives. When a hornet attempts to sting you she releases a pheromone that will tell her sisters where you are.
Is a Hornets Nest Dangerous?
Hornets’ nests are not inherently dangerous, and neither are their inhabitants. Hornets are mostly harmless creatures if they and their nests are left alone. Unlike their yellow jacket counterparts, hornets are generally not aggressive and will not attack unless they feel threatened. Hornets tend to build their nests away from areas with a lot of traffic and noise, which is why you’ll likely find them in trees or at high points of houses. But, if you do want to get rid of any hornets’ nests around your home, you should call in professionals who have the experience in removing them safely.
Photo credit: wplynn
Hornets’ Nest Treatment Methods:
Things to avoid:
Do not do this during the daytime hours. You are more likely to get stung.
Don’t use gasoline. This is just plain dangerous and there are stories of fires, injuries, and property lost.
6 Steps for Hornet Nest Removal:
1. Plan your attack.
Have everything ready and at your disposal (ladders, pruning shears, garbage bag, light source etc.).
2. Plan your treatment for after sunset.
This should help you eliminate the maximum number of hornets since everyone should be home.
3. Keep any light source you use away from you.
The hornets will attempt to attack it over you because they are unable to see well in the dark and will head to the light. Make sure you’re not lighting yourself up as a target. You may also choose to use something that extends your reach if you are not close to the hive. The hornets will be unable to tell where the danger is coming from.
Have a quick knockdown product approved for use on wasps and hornets that will kill almost on contact. If you use a steamlike spray be prepared to have to break open the nest to get everyone.
4. If at all possible find a thick garbage bag and bag the nest for treatment.
No one will be able to find the way out and you can treat inside the bag to get the whole hive, plus you’re ready to dispose of it once you are finished.
5. Safety first.
The thicker the clothing you can wear, the better. This should provide some defense against stings. The best option would be to wear a bee suit with a vale to cover your face. Protect your eyes and face as much as you can while still being able to perform the task at hand.
Traps can work but might not eliminate the entire hive. They may help if you are unable to locate the hive.
Dusts approved for use on wasp and hornets are excellent but take time to have an effect. If you are able, this is the safest option. Application can be tricky but if done stealthily, you can avoid conflict. Apply the dust at night to the entrance ramp or hole.
6. Be cautious, and again, if the task seems intimidating, reconsider hiring a pest professional.
If the information and tips provided helped, share with us in the comment section below. For more expert pest control tips, check out our guide.
For more information:
“Controlling wasps, hornets and yellow jackets,” University of Kentucky College of Agriculture
“Hornet Nest Removal: How To Get Rid Of Hornets,” FightBugs.com
“Wasp and bee control,” University of Minnesota Extension
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Posted in: Ask the Bug Doctor