Wasp Nest: All You Need to Know – Quick and Friendly Guide

Wasp nests can be both fascinating and intimidating to encounter. Understanding the different types of nests and how wasps interact with them is essential for your safety and for protecting these important insects. In this article, we’ll guide you through all you need to know about wasp nests.

There are three general wasp nest types: exposed nests, ground nests, and hidden nests. Each type has its own unique characteristics and requires specific approaches for removal or control, if necessary. Keep in mind that it’s always best to treat nests in the late evening when wasps are less active, reducing the risk of stings.

Wasps play a crucial role in our ecosystem, controlling pests and pollinating plants. However, the presence of their nests close to your home may raise concerns. As you read on, you’ll learn essential information about these nests and tips for dealing with them safely and effectively.

Recognizing a Wasp Nest

When it comes to identifying a wasp nest, it’s helpful to know the basic differences between the types of wasp nests and the wasps that create them. As a quick overview, there are two main categories of wasps: social wasps and solitary wasps.

Social wasps, like yellow jackets, bald-faced hornets, and paper wasps, live in colonies and build distinctive nests. A paper wasp nest often has a honeycomb-like appearance, with individual cells made of chewed wood fibers and saliva. These nests can be found hanging from trees, shrubs, or structures like the eaves of your home.

Solitary wasps, on the other hand, nest alone and can create a variety of nesting environments, such as burrowing in the ground or utilizing tree cavities. However, these nests are usually less noticeable and less likely to cause issues for you.

So, when you’re attempting to identify a wasp nest, look for the following traits:

  • Shape: cone-shaped, flat or round, depending on the type of wasp
  • Material: made of chewed wood fibers and saliva, forming a paper-like substance
  • Location: can be found in trees, shrubs, under eaves, or even in the ground

Keep in mind these key distinctions when determining whether it’s a wasp nest or something else:

  • Bees: nests are made of wax and have a more solid, smoother appearance
  • Hornets: nests have a similar paper-like appearance to wasp nests but are usually larger and more noticeable

With this knowledge, you can now more easily recognize a wasp nest and take appropriate action if needed. Remember to exercise caution and seek professional help for removal if you’re unsure or if the nest poses a threat to you or your property.

Comparison of Bee and Wasp Nests

When dealing with nests, it’s crucial to distinguish between bee and wasp nests. Bees and wasps, like honey bees and red paper wasps, have different nesting habits.

Bee Nests

  • Honey bees create their nests in hollow trees or cavities, typically using wax to form honeycomb structures.
  • Bumble bees might use abandoned rodent burrows, birdhouses, or even compost piles.

Here’s a summary of the differences between bees and wasps:

Bee Nests Wasp Nests
Common Locations Hollow trees, cavities, abandoned burrows, birdhouses, compost piles Tree limbs, building overhangs, attics of garages, small cavities in walls
Material Wax Paper-like material (wood fibers and saliva)
Social Structure Colonies with queen and worker bees Colonies with queen, workers (yellowjackets, paper wasps, bald-faced hornets)
Threat to Humans Low (unless allergic to bee stings) Moderate (more aggressive, may swarm and sting)

Wasp Nests

  • Yellow jackets, bald-faced hornets, and paper wasps construct nests in various locations, using a papery material made from wood fibers and saliva.
  • Paper wasps build nests with open cells on tree limbs, under eaves, and inside wall voids.
  • Yellow jackets might create ground nests or aerial nests in trees and building eaves.

To identify nests, observe their structure, material, and the insects around them. Always be cautious around these nests, as some wasps, like hornets, can be aggressive.

Key Features of Wasp Nests

Wasp nests, built by various species such as paper wasps, yellowjackets, and hornets, have some distinguishing features that set them apart. In this section, we will discuss these key features of wasp nests.

Wasp nests are primarily made from wood fibers that the insects chew and mix with their saliva. This creates a paper-like material which they use to construct the nest. You can often spot wasp nests on trees, building overhangs, or even attics of garages and sheds. If you see a grayish nest hanging from such places, it’s likely a wasp nest.

The structure of the nests can vary depending on the wasp species. For example, paper wasps’ nests have open hexagonal cells arranged like an umbrella, while hornet nests are completely enclosed. Here are the key characteristics of some common species:

  • Paper Wasps: Open cells, umbrella-shaped nests, and found on tree limbs and building overhangs.
  • Yellowjackets: Gray, enclosed nests usually found in the ground or suspended in trees.
  • Hornets: Similar to yellowjackets, but with rounded, football-shaped nests.

These nests are built to protect the wasp larvae and serve as a home for the insects. Social wasps, such as yellowjackets and hornets, live in colonies consisting of a queen and her workers.

Be cautious when approaching wasp nests, as wasps are known to sting if they perceive a threat. Keep a safe distance and consider contacting a professional to handle any removal.

In conclusion, when examining wasp nests, observe the construction material, location, and shape of the nest to determine the species. Always take caution when dealing with these nests to avoid any unwanted stings.

Behavior of Wasps and Their Nests

Wasps can exhibit a range of behaviors, from aggressive to more docile, depending on the species and situation. Some common types of wasps that you need to be aware of include yellow jackets, hornets, and paper wasps.

Yellow jackets and hornets are protective of their nests and can become territorial when they feel threatened, increasing the likelihood of wasp stings. While paper wasps are less aggressive, they will still defend their nests if necessary.

In contrast, solitary wasps are less likely to be aggressive as they do not have large nests to defend. Queen wasps, however, can be more assertive since they are crucial to the survival of their colony.

One key aspect of wasp activity is the location of their nests. They often build their nests in hidden or exposed areas, such as in trees, under eaves, or even inside wall voids and attics. A distinctive feature of paper wasp nests is their construction under horizontal surfaces, which can resemble overhangs.

Wasp infestations can be a concern when nests are built close to human activity. To avoid attracting wasps and minimize potential conflicts, it is crucial to periodically inspect your property for nests, especially before using equipment that could disturb them.

In conclusion, understanding the behavior of different wasp species and their nesting habits can help you prevent unwanted encounters and better manage a potential infestation.

Safe and Effective Wasp Nest Removal

When dealing with wasp nest removal, safety is crucial. You’ll need some protective gear, such as a beekeeping suit, gloves, pants, and boots. This not only covers your body but prevents wasps from reaching your skin.

Consider waiting until nighttime to remove the nest, as this is when wasps are least active. You’d have a reduced chance of getting stung, making the process safer and more comfortable.

For DIY wasp removal, one method includes using soapy water. Be cautious, and avoid handling the nest with bare hands. Instead, use a trash bag with a lid to enclose it, minimizing the risk of stings and making disposal easier.

Another option is trying essential oils like peppermint, which may deter wasps. Apply the diluted oil onto the nest and observe if the wasps stop coming back.

Some commercial products, such as Spectracide Wasp Remover, target wasp nests specifically. They can be useful but ensure to read and follow the label instructions.

Although DIY methods can be effective, there are instances when seeking professional help is the best option. If you’re allergic to wasp stings or the nest is in a hard-to-reach location, consider hiring a professional pest control company to handle the task safely and effectively.

To sum up, you have several options for wasp nest removal, such as:

  • Protective gear and nighttime removal
  • DIY methods like soapy water, essential oils, or commercial products
  • Hiring professional pest control services

Remember always to prioritize safety and consider the pros and cons of each method based on your situation.

Understanding Wasps and Their Role in the Ecosystem

Wasps are fascinating creatures that play a significant role in our ecosystem. There are many species of wasps, such as the red paper wasp. Their contributions to the ecosystem are often overlooked, but they are essential nonetheless.

These stinging insects act as predators to various pest insects, helping keep their populations in check. By doing so, they maintain a balance in the ecosystem while protecting plants and crops. In addition to their role as predators, some wasps also pollinate plants, contributing to the growth and reproduction of flowers and crops.

Here are a few impressive facts about wasps:

  • A wasp’s life cycle lasts for one year.
  • Wasps go through several stages of development, including egg, larva, pupa, and adult.
  • Wasp larvae feast on prey provided by their mothers, eventually becoming pupae and transforming into adult wasps.

While these insects may have a bad reputation due to their painful stings, understanding their importance in the ecosystem can help you appreciate their presence and prevent unnecessary destruction of wasp nests. Just remember to stay cautious and avoid disturbing nests to prevent any unwanted encounters with these stinging protectors of our environment.

Miscellaneous Information About Wasps and Their Nests

It’s essential to identify wasps and their nests correctly to avoid any health risks and deal with them effectively. Here are some key characteristics of wasps and their nests:

  • Wasps have slender bodies with a narrow waist and appear smooth and shiny1.
  • They construct their nests in various locations like trees, under eaves, inside wall voids, and even the ground1.

You might discover ground nests near trash cans, in clay containers, or at the base of trees. These nests typically have a small hole at the entrance and are made of dried mud2.

Knowing various types of nests can help:

  • Exposed nests can be seen on tree branches, under porches, or other outdoor structures2.
  • Ground nests are often hidden in bushes, be careful when working around these areas2.
  • Hidden nests might be discovered in wall voids or attics, especially if you notice increased wasp activity1.

When trying to remove a wasp nest, avoid doing it during the daytime, as that’s when wasps are more active, increasing the risk of stings2.

Here are some natural repellents you can use around your home to deter wasps:

  • Clove
  • Lavender
  • Lemongrass
  • Citronella

Including plants with these scents in your garden or using essential oils can help keep wasps at bay3.

Please remember to be cautious when dealing with wasp nests and contact a professional if necessary. Stay informed and practice safety measures when managing these pests.


  1. umn.edu 2 3

  2. richland.extension.wisc.edu 2 3 4

  3. doh.wa.gov

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 – What’s That Nest from Australia???


Subject: No bug photo but whose nest is this?
Location: Hawkesbury Region, NSW, Australia
March 9, 2013 4:05 pm
Found this little work of art in our driveway but have no idea what made it. It is the entrance to an underground nest/burrow, the actual hole in the ground looks similar to an ants nest with a small hole around 5-10mm in the ground. The walls of the outer funnel-shaped entrance seem to be made of little balls of sand or mud, obviously from the dirt out of the hole. The structure stands about 3cm tall and the top of the entrance funnel would be approx 2cm across. Something was seen flying out of it then back in but we weren’t close enough to see what it really was, perhaps a wasp? Didn’t see anything else in terms of bugs and unfortunately the structure has since been destroyed (they picked a bad place to build this!)
Very interested to know what might make this tiny work of art.
I am in Hawkesbury region of Sydney, Australia.
Signature: Tracy

Unknown Mud Nest
Unknown Mud Nest

Dear Tracy,
We apologize for the delay, but responding to you has been on the back burner since we first opened your file and inspected the image.  We agree that the most likely builder is a wasp though our initial thought was perhaps a crayfish burrow.  Since you saw the tenant flying in and out, we would discount the crayfish possibility.  We can’t imagine why a wasp would need a chimney structure like this, except perhaps to help in the location of the nest.  Perhaps one of our readers will have a thought on this matter.

Letter 2 – Bushtit Nest suspected in Respiratory Illness


Subject: Weird Nest
Location: San Fernando Valley, Los Angeles
August 9, 2015 10:07 am
I am hoping someone can help me identify this “nest.” That’s what I am calling it because I have no clue. It was hanging in my father in law’s backyard and he took it down and opened it up but did not see anything. A few days later he became very ill with breathing issues and we are wondering if this “nest” had anything to do with it.
Please help. He is in the ICU and we are searching for answers. His doctor said that maybe an antigen caused his illness.
Signature: Sheila

Bushtit Nest
Bushtit Nest

Dear Sheila,
We are sorry to hear about your father-in-law.  This looks like the nest of a Bushtit to us, and there are many similar images posted on the Best Animal Galleries site.  A Bushtit is a small social, insectivorous bird and one is pictured with its nest on BirdNote.

Bushtit Nest
Bushtit Nest

Letter 3 – Mysterious Nest from India


Subject: Is this a insect egg nest?
Location: Chennai , India
March 2, 2013 10:26 pm
Hello Daniel ,
Thank you very much for helping with previous queries.
Here is another photograph which looks like some insect egg nest or cocoon approximately 1 cm in size. It was attached to the backside of the leaf. Apart from other things used to construct this structure you can see one shell and a piece of polythene sheet.
I saw a small shell attached to another similar nest. Was this done purposely or it’s just a coincidence.
I went through your website and read about bagworm. Is this related to bagworm?
Signature: Seema Swami

Mysterious Nest
Mysterious Nest

Hi Seema,
This pile of debris does have the appearance of being a deliberate construction, but we are uncertain what creature could have made it.  It is NOT a Bagworm.  It most closely resembles the protective covering constructed by the larvae of certain Neuropterans like Lacewings.  Some Lacewing Larvae construct a protective covering that includes the remains of their meals.
We do not believe this is a nest to protect eggs.

Letter 4 – Mystery Nest from Israel


Subject: Found this weird hive/cocoon’s next
Location: Israel
November 3, 2012 6:59 am
I have no idea what it is, it was on the wall behind a photo. We haven’t touched it yet and we have no idea what it is, I’ve never seen anything like it before, it looks like cocoons inside a hive..
Signature: Nicole

Mystery Nest

Hi Nicole,
This really is an interesting looking nest.  It appears that the cells are made of sand.  Our best guess on this is that this might be a wasp nest of some type.  The creatures in the cells appear to be pupae.  Many female solitary wasps build nests, some of mud, that they provision with paralyzed prey that the developing larvae feed upon.  This might also be a Bee Nest that was provisioned with pollen.
  We will try to get a second opinion from Eric Eaton.

Mystery Nest

Eric Eaton agrees with our assessment.
Looks like wasp or fly pupae inside the individual cells.  Rearing them out to adulthood would tell you what they are.  Otherwise, I need to know what, if any, debris is in each cell with them.  Pollen = bees; insect or spider parts = wasps; other, or none probably = flies.

Thanks Eric,
We came to the same conclusion.  We responded about the wasp and bee possibilities, but we only thought the fly possibility.


Letter 5 – Possibly Wasp Nest from Romania


Probable spider coccoon in Romania
Location: Brasov, Transylvania, Romania
November 29, 2011 3:42 am
Greetings from Romania. I recently tidied up my study and found 5 cocoons underneath a cloth. They had been laid on a picture frame which had been underneath the cloth (actually a cloth bag for an Australian Barmah hat). They measure 1 inch long and less than half inch wide (2.5 cms by 1.2cms). They are clay coloured and are hard to the touch just like baked clay.I opened one and found 8 dried dead spiders inside. They each have 8 hairy legs under the magnifying glass. I have attached a photo. Have you any idea what they are?
Signature: Dr Haydn Deane

Mud Nest

Dear Dr. Deane,
Spiders do not form a cocoon and insects that form a cocoon create a solitary cocoon.  What you describe sounds like a Wasp’s Nest.  There are many wasps that build a mud nest that is provisioned with insects or spiders for a developing larva, generally a single larva per cell.  The structures in your photograph do not resemble any mud Wasp Nests that we are familiar with, but spiders tend to be a common prey for wasps that build a mud nest.  The other puzzle is why that picture frame was chosen as the location.  For now, this will be posted as a Mystery on our site.

possibly a Wasp Nest

Dear Daniel,  Thanks for the prompt reply. You are completely right. I opened another of the nests and inside was the creamy coloured grub in it’s red- brown thin sleeve. The grub is soft but does not move. Pictures enclosed
However I am very puzzled as these mud wasps are not known in Romania. They have been discovered in the Czech Republic and Italy. We live in Brasov, Transylvania in the mountains at an elevation of 600mtres. The cloth that was covering the site of the nests was from an Australian hat. Could it be that the wasp was inside the lining of the cloth bag and travelled all the way to Romania from Australia, then deciding to lay it’s eggs on my photo album lying underneath the bag? Seems a bit far fetched! And it flew in through the window of my study on goodness knows how many occasions with the mud!!
I have done a bit of my own research and it matches the black and yellow mud spider nest, see
I did see a very strange looking wasp in our garden matching the description of the Black and Yellow Mud Dauber this autumn. I have never seen another.
Best regards
Dr Haydn J H Deane MB BCh BAO

Hi again Dr. Deane,
Though the species of wasp you found might not be found in Romania, we feel quite certain that there must be some local species.  Since Mud Wasps are somewhat particular about their host prey, we don’t think it likely that an Australian wasp managed to provision five nest chambers in a foreign land.  We did not receive the grub photo and we would love for you to resend it.

Daniel, Apologies, Here are 3 almost the same but may be of interest to you. I do have a small stream outside my study window so that is presumably where the mud was collected
Many thanks for your help
Best regards

Mud Wasp Larva

Thanks Haydn,
We would urge you to allow the remaining cells to mature and metamorphose into adults that can easily gain access to the outdoors come spring.

Letter 6 – What’s That Hole???


Subject: stumped…
Location: mojave desert, southern california
September 7, 2014 4:59 pm
I just bought some land in southern California about 5 miles outside of Boron. We were returning from working the land and I stopped to pee…saw this perfectly circular hole in the ground surrounded by pebbles and stuff that seemed to be cemented together. The hole itself was about an inch across and seemed to be coated with very dense web down it’s sides. The cemented pebbles and such looked like it would be hard to the touch but it was flexible. I took some pictures and though maybe whatever lived there would pop out but nothing showed. Is this an abandoned trapdoor spider lair or what? I am curious!!
Signature: John Roush

What made the hole???
What made the hole???

Hi John,
We have to use reverse elimination here, and we know it is not a Crayfish hole, and we don’t believe it to be a Trapdoor Spider hole or a Wolf Spider hole.
  WE are going to post it and classify it as an unsolved Mystery.

What's That Hole???
What’s That Hole???


  • 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.

  • 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.

8 thoughts on “Wasp Nest: All You Need to Know – Quick and Friendly Guide”

  1. Hi guys,
    I’ve seen these type of structures around my place and I am fairly sure they are spider hunter wasps and that later they use the material to seal the burrow but I’m not 100% on that. Next time I spot one I’ll try and get some photos for you, perhaps try for a sequence.

  2. I just did a search and found your post of the Spider Hunter Wasp from Jan 2011. Nice pic 🙂
    We live in a rural area and have HEAPS of these around all the time so it is almost certainly what it is. Though I often see them dragging a poor huntsman away, I realise that I have never actually seen where they were taking them.

    • Though we have several photos in our archives of Spider Wasps with Huntsman Spider prey from Australia in our archives, it would be really great to see one arriving at the nest to verify if that identification is correct.


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