How to Get Rid of Hornets

By: Contributors  | 
A hornet eating a dead crab on a beach.
Avoid disturbing a hornet's nest, except it poses a problem. Luis Diaz Devesa / Getty Images

Dealing with the unwelcome presence of hornets can be a challenging task for homeowners and outdoor enthusiasts alike. Knowing how to get rid of hornets effectively is crucial to ensure a safe and comfortable environment. Hornets, particularly species like the bald-faced hornets and European hornets, are known for their aggressive nature and painful stings.

Before getting started, it's a good idea to get a better understanding of what hornets are, how to identify a nest, and of course some practical safety tips to mitigate the risk of hornet stings. By understanding their behavior and employing smart strategies, you can maintain a hornet-free zone around your living spaces.


What is a Hornet?

A hornet is more than just a flying insect; it's a member of the wasp family, known for its larger size and more aggressive nature. These buzzing creatures, often identified by their striking yellow and black stripes, set themselves apart from their insect counterparts with their unique social structure and nesting habits.

Hornets are not only skilled builders, creating large, intricate nests, but they also play a vital role in the ecosystem, helping to control other pest populations. However, their presence can be unsettling, especially when they decide to nest close to human habitats.


Understanding the Differences: Hornets vs. Bees and Other Insects

Knowing how to tell apart hornets from bees and other insects is key to effective removal strategies. Hornets are often confused with their relatives, the wasps, but are noticeably larger and more aggressive, equipped with a stronger sting.

Unlike bees, which have a rounded, furry body and exhibit calm behavior unless threatened, hornets boast a sleek, wasp-like shape and show persistent defensive actions. Recognizing these differences is not merely for curiosity but crucial for successful pest control.


First Step: Identify the Hornet Nest

Spotting a hornet nest is the first big step in getting rid of these buzzing intruders. Hornets are social creatures, so if you see a bunch of them, there's probably a nest close by. Hornets nests have a unique look – they're shaped like upside-down teardrops with a small round hole at the bottom for the hornets to fly in and out. They can be big, holding up to 1,000 hornets, so it's best to find them when they're small [Source: Bob Vila].

Unlike other bugs that sting, hornets like to hide their wasp nests in safe spots like deep inside trees, in building crevices, inside old tree stumps, or under the eaves of houses or sheds. Some hornets, called ground hornets, even make their homes in the ground, which can be hard to spot. Remember, hornet nests are different from bee or yellow jacket nests, which have visible cells or a textured look with several entrances.


Safe Removal of Hornet Nests

Professional Hornet Nest Removal Services

When dealing with large or particularly challenging hornet nests, professional removal services may be necessary. This is the safest way to remove a hornet nest, especially if it is particularly large or in a hard to reach area.

If you're allergic to wasp or bee stings or if you don't have the appropriate equipment, don't attempt to get rid of the hornet's nest yourself — call a professional [Source: Pest Control Canada].


Preventing Hornet Stings: Protective Measures

If you decide to take care of the problem yourself, locate and mark the nest entrance during the day, but take all action at night when the insects are likely to be inside the nest and less active.

Wear protective clothing like boots, coveralls, heavy gloves and veiled headgear when approaching a hornets' nest to avoid insect stings. Tape down your collar and the cuffs of your pants and sleeves.

Chemical Repellents and Insecticides: When and How to Use Them

The easiest and most effective way to get rid of a wasp nest is by using a can of insecticide that is specifically designed for stinging insects. The best time to tackle hornets is at night when they're less active and all in the nest. Before you start, make sure to wear protective clothing like long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, socks, gloves, and goggles for safety.

These sprays can reach far, so you don't have to stand too close to the nest and risk a hornet sting. Be careful about the wind direction to avoid getting the spray in your face. Use a flashlight to see better and spray the nest as the instructions on the can suggest. Always watch out for hornets that might swarm out and be ready to leave quickly if they do.

DIY Hornet Traps and Their Effectiveness

While you can buy lure traps and hang them wherever there is a hornet infestation, you can also just make your own! Follow these steps to create a cost-efficient and effective DIY wasp trap:

  • Materials Needed: You'll need a plastic bottle (like a 2-liter soda bottle), sugar, vinegar, dish soap, and optionally some meat (like fish or liver).
  • Prepare the Bottle: Cut the plastic bottle in half. The top half will act as a funnel.
  • Create the Bait: Mix sugar and vinegar in the bottom half of the bottle. The sugar will attract hornets, while the vinegar repels bees, ensuring you're specifically targeting hornets. Add a few drops of dish soap to break the surface tension of the liquid, so hornets can't escape once they're in.
  • Set the Trap: Place the top half of the bottle upside down into the bottom half, creating a funnel. If using meat as bait, hang it just above the liquid line inside the trap.
  • Place the Trap: Hang the trap with wire or string in an area where you've seen hornet activity. It's best to place it away from high human traffic areas to avoid attracting hornets towards these spaces.

This trap works by luring hornets with the bait and then trapping them inside the bottle from which they cannot escape. Remember to check and empty the trap regularly. Although traps won't eliminate hornets altogether, aggressive trapping can significantly reduce their numbers [Source: The Spruce].


Prevention Tips

Natural Repellents to Keep Hornets Away

If you're looking for a safer, more earth-friendly way to prevent hornets, natural repellents are a great choice. Did you know that certain plants can help? Plants like peppermint, basil, and lemongrass are not only great for your garden but also work as natural hornet repellents [Source: Good Housekeeping].

You can also use essential oils derived from these plants. Just mix a few drops of peppermint or lemongrass oil with water in a spray bottle, and spritz it around outdoor areas where hornets hang out. Another simple trick is to hang cucumber slices around your patio or deck. Hornets dislike the acidic property of cucumbers and tend to stay away. These natural methods are not only easy to use but also safe for your family and pets.


Landscaping Tips to Deter Hornets

Making your yard less inviting to hornets can be as simple as tweaking your landscaping. Start by keeping bushes and trees trimmed; hornets love to build nests in overgrown areas. Avoid planting flowers that attract hornets, like sweet-smelling ones, and instead choose plants that they don’t like, such as marigolds, geraniums, and citronella.

Also, make sure to regularly clean up fallen fruit and seal garbage cans tightly, as these can be a feast for hornets [Source: Planet Natural Research Center]. Keeping your yard neat and choosing the right plants not only makes your outdoor space look great but also helps in keeping those pesky hornets away.