Safely Removing Wasp and Hornet Nests around Your Home

Wasp NestFew insects instill more fear than flying and stinging pests such as wasps and hornets. There are some times that some basic effort by a homeowner can solve the issue while other times, the work should be left to a professional due to the danger. Following are some simple distinctions and methods.

Wasp and Hornet Prevention

The easiest nest to remove is the one that never got started or well established in the first place.   One of the keys, regardless of type, is to take action early in the season. Their numbers are lower, nest sizes are smaller, and aggression is often less as well. The early bird might get the worm, but the early homeowner avoids the sting!

Paper wasps, one of the most common types found here in the Portland Metro area, tend to be very opportunistic when it comes to nest building. They have no problem with moving into an existing next leftover from previous years. Over winter or in early spring, a little effort to knock down empty or inactive nest will go a long way in preventing late spring through autumn problems. Once existing nests are removed, an option is to pre-treat the eaves or your structure with a pesticide that has residual effect. This will keep new nests from forming.

Yellow jackets and hornets, one other hand, are much more difficult to prevent due to their nesting habits and locations. Unfortunately, they are the more aggressive members of the order. Yellow jacket and hornet nests are typically either in the ground or located in bushes or trees – all being areas that are not very feasible to pre-treat. While these types generally are not going to re-inhabit old nest, early action is still a key with stopping the problem before it quickly grows into something where only professional pest control is advised. Knocking down and destruction of hold nests is still recommended, but with a little more caution as you are dealing with a much more aggressive insect. You want to make sure there are neither lingering remnants of last year’s inhabitants or early arrivals to what might not be an old nest but rather, a new one.

Wasp and Hornet Eradication

If you didn’t realize you had the makings of a potential wasp or hornet problem until it was too late, you are next faced with needing to eliminate the nest. The first step in this task is choosing the safest time to do the job. This is going to be when there is the least activity – either night or early mornings. That can make a huge difference in how much activity is present, particularly after you treat since that can often stir up the action. If nighttime is your choice, use light (such as a flash light) sparingly as it can alert and attract them to you.

You will want to take some effort to ensure that your clothing provides you some protection. A full-fledged bee suit is not necessarily needed as for most problems, the smart use of clothes in your closet and drawers will suffice. Start with full length pants and a long sleeve shirt. Over the shirt, a high collared jacket or even a hoodie sweatshirt are good choices. Two layers on your torso are important as these pests are often capable of stinging right through one thin layer. If you opt for a jacket versus a hoodie, be sure to put the collar up and also wrap a heavy scarf around your neck. Wear a hat too and don’t be embarrassed to put on that old pair of ski or safety goggles. Tall boots, which protect ankles, are an additional option. If you are able to work in gloves, by all means do so. Finally, if your clothing is excessively loose at the ankles or wrists, consider taping those more snug with some masking tape.

Next, perform the task from ground level if at all possible. Being on a ladder, stool or any other item is never a good idea when in close proximity to a nest of stinging wasps or hornets. Just a small amount of panic or rushing can cause a harmful or deadly fall. Ladders can be wobbly and are not made for descending quickly. You need to make a quick escape which brings up another item; also have a clear and well thought out path of escape.

In regards to specific methods, pesticides will accomplish the job the most effectively. However, the difference between paper wasps and yellow jacket or hornets is significant in this aspect. Paper wasps are easily treated with contact killing sprays commonly found at hardware stores. Yellow jackets and hornets, however, need more than just a contact killing solution. They require something that will get systemically brought into the nest to achieve nest kill. Yellow jacket nest typically do not have primary entrances as close to the surface entrance and contact killing treatments will not make it inside for the primary killing that is required.

The delivery method from the treatment is also important. Many retail wasp sprays offer far shooting nozzles which serve a few great benefits: they allow you to spray from a great distance, they can help keep you off of ladders, and they allow for better penetration into nest entrances. If you opt for a non aerosol solution that will be sprayed via a household pump-up sprayer, be sure that it is well pressurized and can shoot a heavy stream more than just a couple feet. With systemic treatments, while distance is still helpful, the need to have pinpoint aim from a long stream is a little less critical. Anywhere that the wasps come into contact with the solution will be adequate for them to carry it back to the rest of the nest and start the extermination.

Alternates to a pesticide treatment can involve smoking, soap water solutions, vacuuming and quick mechanical removal directly into water immersion (drowning.) None of these are recommended for yellow jackets or hornets as their efficacy is lower and often involve more time in the presence of an aggravated and aggressive swarming nest. For paper wasps however, they can work.

One potential benefit of the smoking method is that is can allow you to work from below the nest. Quite often the nature of the nest will not allow for smoking due to its proximity to structures or height from the ground. A small, smoky fire, allowed to smolder for a couple hours can sometimes handle the problem.

Spraying with a soap water solution is another option if you wish to avoid pesticides. The solution sticks to their wings, prevents them from flying and a decent percentage of them will perish. However, there is no residual benefit to a soap treatment. It only acts as a contact killer so multiple treatments will likely be required. Most any soap will work, but a good degreasing dish soap such as Dawn work best.

Vacuuming, while not the best or most common method, is still another alternative. Speed and quick action are critical as the noise and change in air flow and air pressure can get the wasps agitated before the task is completed. They can also sometimes escape the canister so best results occur if the is a small amount of soapy water in the bottom of it to drown the incoming pests. There is considerably more sting risk with this method. Finally, simply knocking a nest down, directly into a large container of soapy water can certainly work. However, be ready to run, and run fast, particularly if the next misses the container.

Physical Nest Removal and Preventing Wasp Return

In general, unless there is a compelling reason the nest needs to be immediately removed, it is best to wait a while after treating before pursuing nest removal. While some methods are quick acting, some require over a day for complete nest kill to occur. There can also be wasps that were away from the nest at the time of treatment. Depending on what method and treatment was performed, they may either require re-treatment or at minimum, some time for the systemic treatment to act upon them.

Once you are sure that there is no remaining activity, simple mechanical means generally suffice. A long pole, stick, yard tool handle or spare dimensional lumber will all suffice. Water under pressure, either from a spray nozzle on a garden hose or with a power washer, will also work. If you can get close enough, even a yard blower with high CFM might be able to bring down a loosely attached nest. If you have any doubt as to whether activity has ceased, you should wait or at bare minimum, drop it directly into a container of soapy water (as mentioned above.) Even though you might be certain all activity has ceased, we still recommend that you avoid removing by directly handling the nest. Finally, if able, put the remains of the nest in a bag, secure it, and dispose of it in a lidded waste container.

If you find that the nest was fully or partially inside of a structure, you may need to seal off the area of intrusion. Spray foam can be a quick and easy method for filling small crevices and holes. Larger areas will likely require the use of the same siding material that is used on your home.

Final Thoughts

Never attempt any of this if you have ever had a bad reaction or are unsure whether or not you are allergic to stings. The consequences are just too high, particularly in light of the affordability of having a pest control pro hand the problem for you. If you think this might be a job best left for a top Portland wasp and hornet exterminator, please call us today for a free estimate.