Hornet Nest Survival Guide: Safe Removal and Prevention Techniques

Hornet nests are fascinating structures built by hornets, a type of flying insect found in various regions across the globe. Many people are curious about hornet nests, their construction, and how to deal with them if discovered on their property. In this article, we will provide an overview of hornet nests, focusing on their unique features, benefits, and potential dangers.

Hornets build their nests using a mixture of chewed wood and saliva, creating a strong and durable paper-like material. The nests are usually found in trees, shrubs, or the eaves of buildings. Inside the nest, hornets create a series of hexagonal cells to house their eggs, larvae, and pupae. It’s important to know the difference between hornet nests and those of bees or wasps to avoid accidentally harming beneficial insects, such as bees that play a crucial role in pollination.

Dealing with a hornet nest on your property can be a delicate situation. While hornets may seem threatening, they offer some benefits like helping to control other insects populations. Nevertheless, hornets can be aggressive when their nests are disturbed, posing a danger to individuals who are allergic or sensitive to their stings. In such cases, taking proper precautions or seeking professional help to remove the nest is advisable.

Understanding Hornets and Their Nests

Characteristics of Hornets

Hornets belong to the genus Vespa and are close relatives of wasps and bees. Some common species include the European hornet, Oriental hornet, and Asian hornet. Key features of hornets include:

  • Larger size compared to most wasps
  • Distinctive black and yellow, or black and white bands on their bodies
  • Painful stings, which can cause allergic reactions in some people

Hornet nests, made of a mixture of wood fibers and saliva, are usually found in trees, bushes, and occasionally buildings. They are identifiable due to their shaped like a teardrop or a football.

Comparison with Wasps and Bees

There are distinct differences between hornets, wasps, and honey bees. A comparison table highlighting these differences:

Species Size Color Nest Material Nest Location Behavior
Hornets Large Black & yellow or white Wood fibers & saliva Trees, bushes, buildings Aggressive when threatened
Wasps (e.g. Yellow Jackets) Smaller Yellow & black Wood pulp Underground, trees, voids in walls Aggressive
Honey Bees Small Golden-yellow & black Beeswax Man-made hives or cavities Less aggressive, focused on collecting nectar

Social Wasp Behavior

Hornets and some other wasp species, like yellow jackets and bald-faced hornets, are social wasps. This means they live in large colonies, with a strict hierarchy, including a queen, drones, and workers. Social wasp colonies focus on building their nests and expanding their population.

Hornets are also predators, preying on other insects like bees. They can be a threat to human activities when their nests are located near human dwellings, as they can sting and cause discomfort or allergic reactions.

In conclusion, understanding the differences between hornets, wasps, and bees is essential to identify their nests and deal with them appropriately if they become a nuisance or a threat to safety.

Anatomy of a Hornet Nest

Construction Material and Process

A hornet nest is primarily constructed of:

  • Paper: Hornets create a paper-like material for their nests by chewing on wood fibers and mixing it with their saliva
  • Saliva: The saliva helps to bind the wood fibers together, creating a strong and durable nest structure
  • Water: Hornets use water to soften and manipulate the materials during the construction process

The construction process follows these steps:

  1. Hornets collect wood fibers, often from trees, fences or other wooden structures
  2. They break down the fibers with their saliva, creating the paper-like material
  3. They form the nest by layering the material around a central support, such as a tree branch or eave

Common Locations for Nest Building

Hornets typically build their nests in the following locations:

  • Trees: They favor aerial locations, high off the ground
  • Eaves: The eaves of houses offer protection against weather and predators
  • Poles: Some hornets construct nests on manmade structures like poles
  • Roofs, Sheds: Hornets may also opt for roofs and sheds, providing cover from the elements

Nest Structure and Design

Key features of a hornet nest structure:

  • Entrance: A single entrance at the bottom of the nest allows for easy access for the hornets
  • Combs: The interior comprises a series of horizontal, hexagonal combs where the hornets lay their eggs
  • Football-shaped: Most hornet nests are oval or football-shaped, but may vary depending on the species

A typical hornet nest’s structure consists of several layers:

  • Outer layer: The outermost layer is made of the paper materials, which protect the colony from external threats
  • Combs: The middle layer houses the combs, each containing a series of cells for larvae and eggs
  • Inner layer: The innermost layer serves as a wall, shielding the combs and offering additional support
Features Wasp Nest Hornet Nest
Material Paper, saliva Wood fibers, saliva, water
Shape Umbrella-shaped Football-shaped
Location Bushes, ground Trees, eaves, poles
Construction Open cells Enclosed cells

Life Cycle of a Hornet Colony

The Roles within a Colony

Hornet colonies consist of three primary roles:

  • Queen: The single reproductive female responsible for laying eggs
  • Workers: Female hornets that perform various tasks within the colony, like caring for larvae and maintaining the nest
  • Males: Hornets that are born later in the season, responsible for mating with the queen

Hornet colony size can vary, but typically consist of several hundred individuals.

The Hornet Life Cycle Stages

Hornets undergo a complete life cycle of four stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. The stages involve differing necessities and durations:

  1. Egg Stage: The queen lays eggs in cells within the nest. The eggs are tiny in size, and hatch after about 5–8 days.
  2. Larval Stage: The hatched larvae are legless grubs that need to be fed by workers. They grow rapidly in size, and eventually molt their exoskeleton up to five times during their development.
  3. Pupal Stage: After about 14 days, larvae enter the pupal stage. This phase lasts around 10–14 days, during which the metamorphosis of the larvae into adult hornets takes place within their silk cocoons.
  4. Adult Stage: After the metamorphosis, adult hornets emerge from their cocoons. Workers live for around 30 days, while the queen can live up to 1 year. Adult hornets consume insects such as flies and pests.

Hornets hibernate during the colder months, with the queen being the only one to survive this period while the rest of the colony dies. She will start a new colony in the following spring, repeating the cycle.

Here’s a comparison of the different stages:

Stage Duration Unique Characteristics
Egg 5–8 days Tiny, laid in cells
Larva ~14 days Fed by workers
Pupa 10–14 days Within silk cocoons
Adult 30 days–1 yr Consume other insects

Behavior and Characteristics of Hornets

Aggression and Defense Strategies

Hornets are well-known for their aggressive behavior. They exhibit this aggression in order to protect their nests and colonies from potential threats. Their defense strategies include:

  • Stinging: When threatened, hornets are quick to use their stingers. Unlike bees, they can sting multiple times without dying.
  • Venom: The venom in a hornet’s sting can cause pain, swelling, and sometimes allergic reactions.

Feeding and Dietary Patterns

Hornets are predators mainly feeding on other insects as well as a variety of food sources, such as:

  • Insects (e.g., bees and ground wasps)
  • Fruits
  • Nectar from flowers (helping them serve as pollinators)

Survival Strategies

Hornets have developed various survival strategies that enable them to successfully live in diverse ecosystems:

  • Nest-building: They construct nests using paper-like materials made from chewed wood fibers mixed with their saliva.
  • Colony organization: Hornets are social insects, living in colonies led by a queen, female workers, and male drones.

Predators

Despite their aggression and defensive resilience, hornets still have natural predators in their habitats. Some of their predators include:

  • Birds
  • Spiders
  • Larger insects and insect-eating mammals.
Hornets Bees
Aggression High Low
Stinging Multiple times Once, then dies
Diet Insects, fruits, nectar Nectar and pollen
Role in ecosystem Predator and pollinator Pollinator

Overall, hornets display aggressive and protective strategies to ensure the survival of their colonies, while also contributing to the ecosystem as predators and pollinators. Understanding their characteristics and behaviors allows us to better appreciate these fascinating insects and their role in nature.

Dealing with Hornet Nests

Identifying and Assessing the Threat

When encountering a nest, it’s essential to identify if it belongs to hornets or other species like bees or wasps. To differentiate, observe the following:

Hornet nest characteristics:

  • Large, gray, paper-like material
  • Entrance hole at the bottom
  • Typically found in trees, shrubs, or attached to structures

For example, a bald-faced hornet nest is easily distinguishable due to its size and color.

Hornets, like the Asian giant hornet, can pose a threat by inflicting painful stings. However, they are generally less aggressive than ground-nesting wasps and paper wasps.

Before deciding on removal, assess the risks of structural damage and potential stings. Wearing protective gear like gloves is crucial for safety.

Removal Techniques and Precautions

Depending on weather conditions and the nest’s location, the removal method may differ. Some removal techniques include:

  1. Insecticide spray:
  • Spray at dawn or dusk when hornets are less active
  • Use a long-range insecticide formulated for hornet or wasp control
  1. Traps:
  • Install hornet traps near the nest to help reduce hornet populations

Precautions:

  • Wear appropriate protective gear (gloves, long sleeves, eye protection)
  • Avoid agitating the hornets

Professional Pest Control Solutions

When dealing with a large infestation or inaccessible locations, it’s best to consult a pest control company like Orkin. They employ professionals who:

  • Possess specialized equipment and knowledge
  • Minimize risks and structural damages for the homeowner

Pros of professional pest control:

  • Efficient and safe removal
  • Less risk of inflicting stings or damage

Cons of professional pest control:

  • Additional costs incurred

Ultimately, homeowners must decide whether to tackle hornet nests independently or engage professional assistance. Remember to exercise caution and prioritize personal safety.

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Resin Mason Wasp and Unusual Nest from Australia

 

Subject: Possible wasp?
Location: Sydney, Australia
February 7, 2016 11:56 pm
Hi there, I have noticed what looks to be a wasp nesting outside my back door. It does not seem to be aggressive and I don’t mind it being there as long as it doesn’t harm myself or my dogs. However, the strange thing about it is the nest structure and what it is made out of. I Googled wasp nests, I have looked everywhere and types everything but can’t see any nests that look anything like this. Do you know what type of wasp this is? Is it even a wasp? What is the nest made out of? It’s driving me crazy not knowing. If you zoom in on photo 1, you can just see the little wasp’s head inside the hole. I have no desire to remove the nest as I am regularly outside and the wasp doesn’t come near me. But I’m so curious. If you could identify it for me, that would be great. Thanks so much.
Signature: CuriousityCat

Wasp with Nest
Wasp with Nest

Dear CuriosityCat,
Wasps that construct nests generally use mud or chewed wood that creates a paper pulp.  Your images have what appears to be resin oozing from the bricks.  There is not really enough detail for us to be able to identify the Wasp, but perhaps one of our readers who is more familiar with Australian insects will be able to provide an identity.

Wasp with Nest
Wasp with Nest

Update:  Thanks to comments from Cesar Crash and Drhoz, we are pretty confident this is a Resin Mason Wasp, Epsilon chartergiformis, which is documented on FlickR constructing a nest using resin.  It is also documented on Bowerbird where Ken Walker provided the following comment:  “This is a FASCINATING find!!! There are very few aculeate wasps (ie. wasps with stings) that use resin as a building material. There are Australian resin bees but to our knowledge, there are only two Australian wasps that use plant resins to build their brood nest. These wasps are Epsilon chartergiformis (incorrectly listed on AFD, ALA and BowerBird as Pseudepipona chartergiformis) and Epsilon excavatum (incorrectly listed on AFD, ALA and BowerBird as Ubirodynerus excavatus). In 1995, Giordani Soika transferred these wasps to the genus Epsilon. There are 17 described species in this genus and all occur in SE Asia and Australia. OBVIOUSLY, there are no distribution records on ALA for either of the two Australian species.”

Wasp Peering from Nest
Wasp Peering from Nest

Update:  February 23, 2016
Hi Daniel,
Thank you so much, to yourself and your readers for helping me identify the wasp. I feel so happy now that I know what it is. I’ve been watching every day as the nest has been growing bigger, it’s been interesting.
I’ve attached a photo I took of the nest this morning, as it looks now.
Thank you once again for taking the time to get back to me, I really appreciate it.
Kind regards,
Novella Besso

Resin Mason Wasp Nest
Resin Mason Wasp Nest

Dear Novella,
Thanks for your kind words and a progress image of your Resin Mason Wasp Nest.

Letter 2 – Unknown Nest from Brazil

 

Subject: Insect Nest
Location: Porto Alegre
June 26, 2015 11:50 am
Hello!
I recently visited the Jardim Botanico de Porto Alegre in Brazil, and I saw this nest up in a tree there. It’s about two feet tall. I’ve looked up both insect and bird nests, and I can’t seem to find a visual match online. It has thorns on it, and there weren’t any other structures like it anywhere, so I don’t think it’s a feature of the tree itself.
Signature: Brynna

What's That Nest???
What’s That Nest???

Dear Brynna,
This nest appears to be made of mud and it appears that it is quite large.  We wish you had estimated its dimensions.  Like you, we would speculate that it was created either by a social insect or a bird.  Our initial search did not produce any results.  Perhaps our Brazilian counterpart, Cesar Crash of Insetologia will have some ideas.

Update:  July 4, 2015
Thanks to a comment from a reader, we were directed to this image of a Paper Wasp Nest on FlickR.

Authors

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  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

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  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

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25 thoughts on “Hornet Nest Survival Guide: Safe Removal and Prevention Techniques”

  1. Ken Walker at BowerBird says there’s only two known aculeate wasps that use resin – Epsilon chartergiformis (incorrectly listed on AFD, ALA and BowerBird as Pseudepipona chartergiformis) and Epsilon excavatum (incorrectly listed on AFD, ALA and BowerBird as Ubirodynerus excavatus. No good distribution data on either

    Reply
  2. I’ve used these discarded nests to light my fire place for years.
    They only use resin when its going to be humid weather for long periods.
    As the mud gets too damp.

    Reply
  3. I’ve used these discarded nests to light my fire place for years.
    They only use resin when its going to be humid weather for long periods.
    As the mud gets too damp.

    Reply
  4. I have one of these nests at Jamberoo, NSW. The wasps do not seem to be aggressive, so I’m leaving them alone to continue building their nest.

    Reply
  5. Hi guys,
    It seems that I have found a resin wasp as well. I am in Alstonville, near Lismore on the north coast of NSW.
    Richard

    Reply
  6. Hi guys,
    It seems that I have found a resin wasp as well. I am in Alstonville, near Lismore on the north coast of NSW.
    Richard

    Reply
  7. Hi Richard, i live at Nambucca Heads.
    My little friend has never worried about me, I have many movies or videos as they are now called of my little friend and even sleep just inches away from the nest building. Mine is not agressive at all .enjoy your new friend.
    Lismore I believe has beautiful fungi?

    Reply
  8. Hi Richard, i live at Nambucca Heads.
    My little friend has never worried about me, I have many movies or videos as they are now called of my little friend and even sleep just inches away from the nest building. Mine is not agressive at all .enjoy your new friend.
    Lismore I believe has beautiful fungi?

    Reply
  9. Hi, i have them too they like to build on my timber furniture. I didn’t know what the sticky stuff was on the arm of my chair and i ruined their nest by accident, then one stung me four time on the arm. We now have an understanding they can build in my bookshelf undisturbed. Noela

    Reply
  10. Oh my gosh I think they are amazing. My experience is they will not attack and will not bite unless you accidently squish them, which I did. Result being ….. you guessed it! I lay within 3 inches from everyday and one day material on my outside loung flipped over in the wind and I flipped it back and plonked myself down not realising one was stuck underneath. Touch and go for a while with wound as diabetic but hot salty water soaking few times seemed to calm injury down. 3 weeks later bite still fresh as a daisy though.
    Just got back from 6 weeks stint in Hospital after breaking ankle in 3 places. Hope no more issues!

    Reply
  11. Oh my gosh I think they are amazing. My experience is they will not attack and will not bite unless you accidently squish them, which I did. Result being ….. you guessed it! I lay within 3 inches from everyday and one day material on my outside loung flipped over in the wind and I flipped it back and plonked myself down not realising one was stuck underneath. Touch and go for a while with wound as diabetic but hot salty water soaking few times seemed to calm injury down. 3 weeks later bite still fresh as a daisy though.
    Just got back from 6 weeks stint in Hospital after breaking ankle in 3 places. Hope no more issues!

    Reply
  12. I have built blocks to attract solitary bees and wasps. One of my visitors is a tiny black resin wasp (Passaloecus). The female builds her nest in a hole in the block. She provisions her nest with aphids, then she lays an egg, and then she seals the hole with resin. I am writing from Colorado, USA.

    Reply
  13. Hi. We have some lovely resin mason wasps nesting in the bed. Two days ago I found this little dude seemingly stuck on some resin. He was doing some pumping motions. Hasn’t moved from this spot in over 72hrs. At first we thought it was an emerging adult resin wasp but it’s clear that it looks very different from a resin wasp. Is it an imposter? Is it’s bug that got stuck? Can anyone help identify this little creature? Thank you. Kat

    Reply

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