How to Get Rid of Wasps and Hornets

Updated for 2023

One of the few major drawbacks of spring and summer is the return of hornets, which comprise the largest species of wasps. Often feared, hornets and wasps can be aggressive and can sting multiple times without dying, unlike common bees.While they generally won’t go out of their way to bother people, hornets can pose a safety risk if their nests are located near human activity. If you find a hornet or wasp nest on your property, it’s important to deal with it promptly and carefully.In some cases, you will need professional help to get rid of hornets, but several do-it-yourself removal methods can be effective, and several preventive measures that you can use to keep them away from your home.


Hornets vs. Wasps

Hornets are a larger subspecies of eusocial wasps, meaning that they live in cooperative colonies with complex social systems. Wasps and hornets are closely related to honeybees, but can sting multiple times without dying, and are consequently more likely to be aggressive if they feel threatened. While they can appear very similar at a glance, several identifiers can help you distinguish between hornets and wasps.

The two most notable differences between hornets and wasps are size and shape. Wasps are slender-framed and typically range from ⅓” to 1” in length, while hornets can grow to over 2”, and usually have fatter and rounder bodies. Hornets also live in larger colonies than wasps, and will often build much larger nests to accommodate their numbers.


Getting Rid of Hornets in Your Yard

There are a variety of different factors that can attract hornets to your property, including flowering plants, food sources, and outdoor lights. If you have hornets in your yard or outside your house, there are a few effective ways to deal with them yourself.


Hanging traps around the perimeter of your property is a great way to manage hornets outside your home. Most high-quality wasp and hornet traps use a combination of chemical attractants like acetic acid and butanol to lure the pests in and catch them. You should place these traps away from outdoor living areas such as porches and patios, as living wasps or hornets will likely congregate around them, increasing the risk of stings.

It is also important to change the traps periodically to ensure their continued effectiveness. To attract the greatest number of hornets, you should generally hang your traps at least four feet above the ground.

Treat Future Nesting Areas

To prevent hornets from simply relocating to another area of your property, it’s often a good idea to proactively target any potential nesting areas with residual insecticides. These insecticides come in dust or spray form, and use chemicals like boric acid, bifenthrin, and methoprene to repel wasps from the area for days or weeks after application.

When looking for future nesting areas, you should target warm, shady spots, especially if they are near potential food sources such as fruit trees and garbage cans. Hornets often prefer sturdier tree branches that can support the weight of their larger nests. Wasps are less discerning, and are liable to build nests anywhere that offers some degree of shelter; including on your porch or under the eaves of your home.


Getting Rid of Hornet Nests

To eliminate a hornet infestation, it’s critical to make sure all the nests on your property have been destroyed. Even if all the hornets have been killed, their empty nests can attract more hornets and other pests to your home.

If you’re dealing with an active nest, it may be prudent to enlist the help of a local pest control professional, as attempting to remove the nest may cause the hornets to become aggressive. However, this is not necessary in every case, and there are several methods that you can use to get rid of hornet nests on your own:

Nest Drenching

Drenching is one of the most effective treatments you can use to get rid of hornet nests. As its name implies, this technique involves drenching nests with a specially formulated wasp and hornet spray. Depending on the size and location of the nest, you can purchase this spray in a hand-held can, or in a larger container that includes a long nozzle applicator for hard-to-reach areas. The nozzle is ideal for larger nests, as it enables you to stand out of harm’s way as the hornets stream out.

To begin, stand as far away from the nest as possible and spray the area around it. Then, use a steady stream of spray to fully drench the nest itself. As you see hornets start to fly out, try to spray as many as you can. If you aren’t able to remove the nest, you’ll need to spray it for the next two weeks to ensure that any immature hornets are killed before they’re able to mature and restart the colony.

Perimeter Spraying

Perimeter spraying is an important step to take for hornet control as it will help mitigate the number of hornets you’re dealing with and prevent them from creating more nests around your house. For this method, you can take the same insecticide you might have already used to drench a nest, and spray it in the areas where you’ve seen the hornets flying. While it won’t eradicate hornets like drenching will, perimeter spraying can help you reduce their population and enable you to target nests with less risk.

Fake Nests

This strategy works on the principle that hornets tend to avoid other hornets’ nests. When looking for a place to settle, hornets will mistake the fake nest for a real one, and move elsewhere. Fake nests can be placed anywhere that you don’t want hornets to visit, such as on your porch or under the eaves of your home. You can also hang them in areas where you think hornets may be likely to nest, such as under shady trees.


How To Get Rid of Ground Hornets

Ground hornets, also known as cicada killers, are one of the largest hornet varieties found in the United States. Rather than looking for high perches, these hornets build their nests by digging into the ground or settling into abandoned animal burrows.

While they’re not known to be especially aggressive, they can pose a threat if they nest in an area where you and your family spend time. Fortunately, several techniques can be effective in getting rid of ground hornets.

Nest Dusting

Nest dusting is ideal for treating ground hornets, as well as any infestation that doesn’t pose an immediate threat. All you have to do is quickly sprinkle the dust over the nest and surrounding area, and move away immediately. The insecticide will then begin to slowly kill off the colony, which could take up to several weeks.

It’s important to check on the nest periodically after the initial dusting treatment, as reapplication is sometimes necessary to fully eliminate the colony. While this method is generally less risky than drenching, you should still be sure to wear protective clothing and take all of the other precautions that you would also take when using a spray insecticide.

Boiling Water With Soap

This is another effective way to safely remove ground-nesting hornets from your property. Pouring a mixture of boiling water and liquid soap solution into the entrances of the ground hornets’ nest will work to eliminate the pests in two ways: the water will drown many of them, and the liquid soap will disable and gradually kill any survivors. After pouring the solution, the entrances to the nest must be sealed to prevent other hornets from moving in later.

Getting Rid of Hornets Naturally

In some cases, insecticides can pose a bigger risk to your health than the pests you’re trying to eliminate with them. If you have young children or pets at home, you may want to avoid chemical treatments altogether, especially if the hornets are inside your house. Fortunately, there are several safe and natural ways to get rid of hornets:

Vinegar Solution

While many store-bought insecticides contain chemicals that are not safe for indoor use, it is possible to make an effective natural hornet repellent using apple cider vinegar, sugar, and water. To make the solution, combine two cups of apple cider vinegar with two cups of sugar, and one cup of water. Stir this mixture thoroughly and apply it to any areas where hornets are entering your home.

Diatomaceous Earth

One of the most widely used alternatives to store-bought insecticides, diatomaceous earth is a naturally occurring substance created by the buildup of tiny marine plants called diatoms. It kills hornets and a variety of other pests by lacerating their exoskeletons on contact, causing them to gradually die of dehydration. While lethal to hornets, food-grade diatomaceous earth is considered non-toxic to humans and pets, making it a very safe option for indoor use.

Peppermint Oil

Peppermint oil has a strong smell that naturally works to repel hornets and other pests. It is not toxic to humans, unlike most store-bought insecticides, although it should still be used carefully as it can be poisonous to pets in larger quantities. To make a natural hornet repellant, mix a few drops of peppermint oil and a few tablespoons of dish soap with some water, then pour the solution into a spray bottle. Then, spray this mixture anywhere you’ve already seen a nest on your property, and/or anywhere you think hornets might try to build nests in the future.


Keeping Hornets Away

While there are myriad ways to get rid of hornets on your property, the best method of control is to prevent infestations from occurring in the first place. Practicing the right steps can help you keep hornets away from your home, saving you the stress of dealing with an infestation. Even if you’ve recently eliminated hornets from your property, making the following considerations can help you ensure that they stay away for good.

Remove Food Sources

One of the most important steps in hornet prevention is to take away the food sources that hornets and wasps may be attracted to. Both of these pests are attracted to foods that are sweet or contain protein. This includes pet food and old leftovers. The latter may be accessed through open garbage bags that you may leave in your backyard. Keep in mind that once hornets identify a food source, they will imprint that source. Even after the food is removed, you may have to deal with pests coming back to that area to conduct future searches.

Seal Off Entry Points

The inside of your house can be an abundant source of food and shelter for the hornets on your property. These pests can sneak into your home in a variety of ways, creating a hazard for you and your family. You can help prevent this by identifying and thoroughly sealing all potential entry points, including any crevices around your doors and windows, and any gaps in the siding or foundation. When searching for entry points around your home, it’s also important to pay special attention to your roofing, basement, and attic.

Dispose of Nests Properly

Proper disposal of nests is critical when addressing any hornet infestation. Leaving an empty nest on your property can allow other hornets to move in and reproduce quickly. To safely get rid of an empty hornet’s nest, start by approaching it at night, once you’re sure the hornets are dead. Cover the nest with a garbage bag, remove it gently and then seal the bag. Throw the bagged nest away in an outdoor trash can and seal the lid tightly.

When To Call a Professional

If you have taken all of the above precautions and you still see large swarms of hornets around your property, it is time to call in a professional. Once a nest has been established, DIY methods are far less effective at reducing pest activity.

Removing severe infestations will usually take a chemical application that can be dangerous if applied inaccurately. Professionals will also have protective material that will reduce their risk of being stung while applying treatment.

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