Hornet Nest vs Wasp Nest: How To Tell The Difference

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Having an unidentified nest in or around your home is an unpleasant situation, especially if you fear it belongs to a stinging insect of any kind. Some of the most common invaders who build nests and are often confused are hornets and wasps. Although hornets are a subset of wasps, there are different species of hornets and different species of wasps.

How do you tell the difference between the nests of Hornets and Wasps? They vary in several ways, including appearance and usual locations. Here's how to expertly identify their nests to help you properly handle your pest problem.

Identifying Hornet Nest and Wasp Nest

Hornet nest

Appearance: A hornet's nest is made from saliva and wood pulp they chew and construct into a nest. Normally, hornet nests have a teardrop shape and can grow as much as the size of a basketball when finished. A typical hornet nest consists of hexagonal combs, an outer covering, and a single entrance.

Location: The nesting sites of a hornet depend on the species. Generally, hornets prefer to build nests in covered and secured areas. You'll find their nests in places like tree branches and shrubs, under the siding of houses, in attics, or crawl spaces. One of the most common hornet species, the bald faced hornet, tends to build its nest high above in trees, while the European hornet likes to find a place protected from the sun and rain. 

Meanwhile, the Asian giant hornet, the latest species that invaded the United States in 2019, normally lives underground in subterranean nests, making their hornet colony difficult to locate. Usually, they create nests by digging into the ground, occupying pre-existing tunnels dug by other animals such as rodents, or scouring out spaces near rotted tree roots.

 Wasp Nest

Appearance: Wasp nests are usually spherical in shape and grayish-brown in color. They are made of chewed wood, pulp, and saliva, hence they have distinctive papery walls. A wasp nest will begin off very tiny in the early stage, just about the size of a walnut or golf ball, when the queen wasp begins to create a nest in the spring. During summer, the nest will grow as the number of wasps increases. It usually grows to the size of a football or larger.

Location: Wasp nests are typically made in sheltered spots with an easy way to the outside. You can usually find wasp nests in roof spaces, wall cavities, in bird boxes under eaves, sheds, or garages. To easily locate a wasp nest, cautiously watch the flight path of the returning worker wasps to your property or garden. 

One of the most common wasp species, the paper wasp (European paper wasp), likes to build large, exposed nests where the combs are visible. A paper wasp nest is often compared to an upside-down umbrella and is usually built-in dark, protected areas like the eaves of a house or the end of an open pipe. Other wasps you are most likely to see in your property are:

  • The cicada killer wasp nests near trees harboring cicadas.
  • Digger wasp typically digs a tunnel in the dirt or between the cover of grass and plants.
  • Mud dauber wasp, which builds its nest under the eaves of houses, exterior walls, inside of barns, and garages.
  • Spider wasp, which commonly burrows in the ground.

Aside from hornets and wasps, other yellow-colored flying insects include their close relatives, yellow jackets, and bees. A yellow jacket nest is often found underground in rodent burrows, making it easier for you to identify it as you can see yellowjackets emerging from a hole in the ground. Meanwhile, bees, particularly its most common species, the honey bee, bumble bee and solitary bee, nest in cavities, such as hollowed-out tree trunks. On the other hand, the carpenter bee prefers to construct its bee nest or beehive in eaves, rafters, fascia boards, siding, wood shake roofs, deck, and outdoor furniture. 

What To Do When You Find A Nest At Home?

hornet nest

If you find a hornet or wasp nest in your home, it's best to call an exterminator to have it removed. If you prefer to conduct the wasp or hornet nest removal yourself, carefully follow these measures:

Make sure you're not allergic to hornet or wasp stings

If you're not certain if you have an allergy to stings or not, it's safe to have an allergy test appointment with your doctor before you attempt to tackle the nest. If you find out that you have an allergy, you must call a professional pest control specialist to deal with it, as getting stung could be life-threatening.

Determine what type of nest you have

Before anything else, it's best to learn what kind of species you're dealing with, as this will give you an idea of the best way to get rid of its nest. You may seek the help of your vector control district or an entomologist from a nearby university to identify the wasps correctly. You also need to know whether the species you are dealing with is a social wasp or a solitary wasp. Pests which are considered a social wasp are more aggressive than solitary wasps. In distress, a social wasp releases a pheromone that sends nearby colony members into a protective, stinging attack.

Ready Your Protective Gear

Wearing protective clothing when you attempt to get rid of a hornets nest or wasp's nest is a must. This is to avoid getting stung. A wasp sting is not only painful. It can also cause allergic results. Wear long jeans, socks and boots, a hooded sweater, and gloves. A sash around the lower half of your face and glasses or ski goggles can also help prevent stings. It would help if you washed or disposed of the clothes immediately afterward.

Destroy the nests at night

If you're planning to get rid of a hornets' nest or wasps' nest yourself, it's best to do it at night. When the pests are least active, they are less aggressive, and their reaction time is slower. Do not use a regular flashlight to inspect the nest, as this will attract the wasps to you. Instead, use an amber-colored light for safe visibility when performing night-time treatment. If you need to do this during the day, it's advisable to aim for the nest in the very early daybreak before the wasps turn active.

How To Get Rid Of Hornet and Wasp Nest

Some of the most effective measures of treating a hornet or wasp nest include using:

Pesticide Spray

You can purchase a pesticide spray intended for killing hornets or wasps from the hardware store. Pesticides formulated for smaller insects like ants may not be powerful enough to kill the pests. What you need to do is to aim at the nest entrance with a stream of pesticides. Follow the instructions on the can carefully (generally 10 to 15 seconds), then leave the area immediately. Let the spray take effect overnight. The next day, examine the wasps' nest or hornets' nest from a distance. If you can still see any activity around the nest, repeat the process for a second time. If all the wasps are dead, you can knock down the nest using a long stick, then throw it as soon as possible.

Insecticidal Dust

If you're dealing with ground nests (such as those occupied by ground wasps and yellowjacket), insecticidal dust is much more reliable than aerosol sprays, which can't entirely penetrate the nest fully. During the evening or early daybreak, apply the dust liberally onto the nest entrance while wearing the proper protective gear. Immediately vacate the area. Don't block or cover the nest. Let the wasps enter and exit easily. As they move within the opening, their legs and wings will be filled with insecticidal dust, which they will then take into the middle of the nest, infecting the other wasps. If you carefully follow the application of insecticidal dust, the wasps should die off in a day or two. If not, you may repeat the method.

Dish soap and water solution

If you prefer a non-toxic method of dealing with a nest, you can try using dish soap and water and water solution. Similar to pesticides, it's incredibly effective at killing off hornets and wasps, as it coats their wings to stop them from flying and ultimately drowns them. To make this solution:

  • Mix a fitting quantity of dish soap (about ¼ cup) with a liter of warm water.
  • If you're aiming for an aerial nest, pour the soap solution into a hose-end spray bottle, then seek a strong stream of water right at the entrance of the nest for 10 to 15 seconds.
  • If you're aiming for a ground nest, pour the solution directly into the nest entrance, then quickly vacate the area.


Using smoke is another pesticide-free way of clearing out an aerial wasps' nest. All you need to do is to start a small fire in your grill directly below the nest. This will suffocate the wasp and force them to leave their nest. It's recommended to leave the smoke to rise for an hour or two so that you are sure that the nest is empty. If there are remaining wasps in the nest, use a dish soap and water solution to get rid of the pests. You can also use this method to treat a yellowjacket nest or honey bee colony.


Water is another way to eliminate a hornet or wasp's nest without harmful chemicals. It's possible to drown free-hanging aerial nests using a cloth bag and a bucket of water. Set a bucket of water beneath the nest. Grab a large cloth bag without holes or tears. Swiftly and carefully place the cloth bag over the nest and tightly secure the top with a string. Pull the nest from the tree and dump the bag containing the wasps nest in the bucket and cover it with a large stone. Leave the bag in the water overnight, and by daybreak, all the wasps will have drowned. 

Why Hiring A Professional Pest Control Specialist Is Your Best Choice

pest control truck

Do-it-yourself hornet and wasp nest removal are meticulous processes that may often lead to risky and unpredictable outcomes. Just imagine the excruciating pain hornet stings deliver, particularly by a baldfaced hornet. This is why it's always a wise choice to seek the help of a properly trained and experienced pest control specialist in dealing with your pest problem. They have the skills and equipment to do the job safely and efficiently. When it's time to choose a pest control company, trust only Pinnacle Pest Management. We have a strong passion for pest removal, and this keeps us a leader in the industry. Contact us today and get a free estimate.

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