If you’re seeing a papery nest dangling from a nearby tree branch or the edge of your home, you might be dealing with hornets–– a troublesome type of wasp that can be particularly aggressive. Read on to learn how to get rid of hornets in your yard.
Hornets may have a place in the ecosystem pollinating flowers and eating garden pests, but if you spot them in your yard it’s safer to get rid of them, especially for children, pets, or anyone with an allergy. If you have hornets, don’t wait for them to multiply!
How to Tell if You Have Hornets
Hornets and their nests might resemble bees, yellow jackets, or other types of wasps at first glance. It’s important to know what type of bugs you’re dealing with so you can choose the best course of action and the right products. Here are some tips on how to identify hornets and set them apart from other stinging insects.
There are two main types of hornets that might be affecting your yard: European hornets and bald-faced hornets. European hornets are typically 1 to 1.5 inches long, and have reddish-brown bodies, yellow rings around their back ends, and a yellow face. These hornets like to make their nests at least 6 feet above the ground and can be active at night or during the day, though daytime appearances are more common.
Bald-faced hornets are slightly smaller and can be told apart by the black rings around their eyes. Their nests can be up to two feet long and usually have the texture of papier-mache. Both species are very aggressive, and hornets release more venom in their stings than any other stinging insect.
Wasps are an insect family that include hornets, yellow jackets, and other species. Paper wasps are the most common American variety, with black-and-yellow striped bodies and a slender thorax. Red wasps, an especially aggressive type with reddish-orange color, are especially common in the South and will need professional removal.
Yellow jackets are an aggressive wasp species. They may resemble bees at first with their black and bright yellow stripes, but they have a smooth texture and can sting multiple times if threatened. Yellow jacket nests are usually underground.
Bees are beneficial insects with round and fuzzy black-and-yellow bodies and blunt stingers that aren’t always visible. They are non-aggressive unless directly threatened and are very important pollinators in the garden ecosystem. If you have to remove a bees’ nest from your yard, seek a humane bee removal service that will transplant the hive to a safer location.
Materials Needed to Get Rid of Hornets
The materials you’ll need for removing hornets depends on whether you’re planning to use synthetic insecticide hornet spray or a chemical-free hornet trap. This table shows what you’ll need for both methods:
|Hornet Spray/Insecticide Removal||Chemical-Free/Hornet Trap Removal|
|Hornet Spray||Protective Clothing|
|Protective Clothing (long sleeves, thick socks, safety goggles, face mask)||Bait (like overripe fruit, juice, pet food, soda)|
|2-liter soda bottle|
|Store-bought hornet or wasp trap (if not DIYing)|
How to Get Rid of Hornets with Hornet Spray
Hornet spray is an easy and effective way to get rid of hornets at home. This tried-and-true method will kill hornets on contact, allowing for safe removal of their nests. The best aerosol sprays will have a self-propellent feature so you don’t have to get too close. Look for “long-distance” or “flying insect” spray varieties.
Note: for severe hornet infestations, or nests located at a high point that would require the use of a ladder, hornet spray is not recommended. An exterminator or pest control professional can conduct a nest removal using trained practices that keep safety in mind.
Step 1: Safety First
While you’re getting ready to use hornet spray, take a moment to consider safety. First, check out where the hornet’s nest is located. If it’s high enough that you would need a ladder to reach it, put the spray down and call a professional. Tall heights and wandering hornets are not a good mix!
Next, grab some protective gear before heading to the nest. Wear long sleeves and pants, thick gloves, eye goggles, and a face mask, bandana, or gator to protect yourself from potential stings.
Step 2: Approach the Nest
When you’re suited up, grab your hornet spray. The best time to spray hornets is at night, when more of the hornets will be at home and dormant. Approach the nest slowly and carefully, as hornets are easily agitated — they signal information to each other quickly through pheromones, and can be aggressive if roused by activity near the nest. Use extra caution if spraying during the day, as the hornets will be particularly active.
Pro Tip: Don’t spray from directly under the opening to the nest. You don’t want to be in the way if any hornets come out to see what’s going on!
Step 3: Spray and Go Away
Spray the hornets’ nest, taking caution to avoid blowback from the wind and any hornets that might leave the nest. Use your spray according to the instructions and cover the area fully.
Then, leave the nest alone for several hours or overnight if possible. It’s unsafe to remove a nest unless you’re fairly sure all hornets have been killed.
Step 4: Recheck and Remove
When you come back to check out the nest, examine whether it seems like any hornets are buzzing about. If they are, spray again and repeat the process until it looks like all hornets have been killed.
A sprayed hornets’ nest is full of insecticide, which is dangerous for the beneficial insects in your yard if it’s left behind. Once the hornets have been killed, knock the nest down with a pole or broom and place it into a trash bag immediately. Then, dispose of the nest properly according to the spray instructions.
How to Get Rid of Hornets With a Hornet Trap (Pesticide-Free)
Hornet spray is an insecticide that can be dangerous to other beneficial insects in your yard. It’s also an oil-based chemical solution that can get all over your plants during use. Luckily, you can also remove hornets with a hornet trap. These are easy to find at gardening centers and outdoor retailers, but they’re also a quick DIY.
Here’s how to make your own hornet trap, and how to use one to say goodbye to the hornets in your yard.
Step 1: Gather Materials
Decide whether you want to DIY or purchase your hornet trap and gather the materials you’ll need for each. To make one on your own, you’ll need an empty two-liter soda bottle and some masking tape. For both types, you’ll need some bait to attract the hornets. Try something sweet, like ripe or overripe fruit, or particularly smelly food like cat food.
If you’re making your own, read on to learn how to put it together. Sticking with a garden store hornet trap? Uncork it, insert the bait into the bottom through the opening, and skip to step 3 for setup.
Step 2: Create Your DIY Hornet Trap
To make a DIY hornet trap, cut the top off of your 2-liter bottle, cutting where it starts to taper off towards the neck and the opening. Then, put your bait into the bottom and re-insert the top of the bottle upside down into the opening, so that it creates a wide funnel towards the bottom. The hornets will be attracted to the smell of the bait, but the narrow opening will make it difficult for them to get back out.
Seal your trap with masking tape along the edges, and there you have it: your own homemade hornet trap!
Step 3: Position the Hornet Trap
Once your hornet trap is ready to go, set it up outside in your lawn to draw the hornets. Aim for a spot that’s near to the nest so they find it easily, but make sure you don’t put the trap in a spot where you and your family frequent – it’s a bad idea to lure hornets to your door!
Leave the trap unattended for 24 hours and check it out the next day. If it’s full of hornets, it’s time for removal!
Step 4: Remove Hornets
If your hornet trap is full of hornets, dress up in your protective gear and get ready for removal. Seal the trap by taping over the top or applying plastic wrap to a bottle trap, or cork the top if you’re using a reusable model. Then, put the trap into a trash bag and leave it out or in a freezer overnight. The cold will kill the hornets quickly, and then they can safely be disposed of.
A large hornets’ nest may require a few rounds of trap removal. If you’ve disposed of your trap but you’re still seeing hornets, make another or refill your reusable trap and start the process over.
Note: make sure your hornet trap is completely sealed before putting it in the trash or into a freezer. This will make sure you’re trapping the hornets inside and keep them from seeking more food.
How to Keep Hornets from Coming Back
Once you’ve gotten rid of a hornet infestation, the last thing you’ll want to do is deal with another one. Here are a few ways to keep hornets from coming back to your yard.
Remove Food Sources
Hornets flock to flowers and fruit trees, so make sure you’re maintaining yours regularly and keep planting schemes a safe distance away from high-traffic areas. Aphids will also attract them, so treat your garden for pests regularly.
Cover Up Trash Cans
It may not smell as sweet, but hornets are also drawn to food waste, so seal up your garbage cans and any outdoor compost to keep them from flocking. Tie the tops of bags tightly, and avoid overfilling your bins.
Maintain Your Home
Hornets love to make their nests near the warmth of human homes, especially if there are cracks and crevices in the eaves that are easy to nestle into. Fill and seal any entry points in the foundation, the areas around windows, and the exterior walls of your home. A little gap can turn into a big problem!
Plant Hornet-Repellent Plants
The right garden species can naturally dissuade hornets from taking up residence in your yard. Herbs like wormwood, mint, eucalyptus, and thyme have potent smells that humans love but hornets can’t stand. Incorporating an herb garden near your home with these species can help keep hornets at bay.
Hang Up a Fake Nest
Even hornets understand how aggressive and territorial their own species can be. Hanging up a decoy hornet nest can signal to hornets to stay clear by convincing them another hive has taken over your yard. These decoys, which usually resemble paper lanterns, are available online or at garden stores.
FAQ About Getting Rid of Hornets
If you can’t find or reach the hornets’ nest in your yard, baiting them into a hornet trap is one way to get rid of them. For a major hornet problem or a high up nest, though, you may want to call a professional.
Hornets are active during the day and rest at night, so nighttime is the best time to try and spray a hornets’ nest.
Hornets can’t handle cold temperatures, so most of the hive will die off in the late fall or early winter after their active period in late summer. Queens, however, can hunker down and hibernate until spring to make a new nest, so if you have a hornet problem it’s best to deal with it ASAP.
Call in the Pros
Hornet removal is a tricky process, and attempting to get rid of a hornets’ nest can be troublesome at best and dangerous at worst. Instead of spending ages donning protective clothing and crafting traps to try to get rid of a hornets’ nest on your own, connect with a pest control company for hands-on assistance from trained professionals.
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