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1. It is best to exterminate a wasp nest when it is built too close to a play area for children or near a heavily used door. These stinging insects can become pests at times, especially when their nests are built in the wrong places. Social wasps can be extremely dangerous when their nests are disturbed if you take into account their stinging ability and the huge number of workers occupying a single nest. Some wasp colonies can take more provocation than others. It depends on a couple of factors: colony size and temperature. Colonies tend to be milder-tempered when they are small and the temperature is cool. Though when the colonies are large and the temperature is high, you had better watch out! Hot weather seems to make social wasps very irritable. Plus, the more wasps there are in a single nest, the more activity there is. This means that the temperature inside the nest goes up; which makes the wasps irritable.
2. There are many different ways to get rid of a bothersome wasp colony, I will only discuss three easy ways to exterminate three types of nests. First of all, you need to determine which entrances are being used by the wasps. This is best done by observing the insects during the daytime. Exterminate nests at night when the colonies are quietly resting. You should make sure that you are wearing protective clothing such as long pants, long-sleeve shirt, and gloves during any of these procedures. Also, never shine your flashlight at a nest while you are exterminating it because the angry wasps will probably fly straight up the light's beam and sting you. Your safest bet would be to place a piece of clear, red plastic or a red filter over the light. Wasps do not see red. So, it would be safe to use the flashlight to see the nests that way.
3. For underground nests, I would recommend approaching the nest very cautiously and pouring boiling water down into the entrance hole and immediately tossing several shovel fulls of earth on top of it or securely covering it with a heavy-duty glass bowl which is flipped over onto its top. You can also gently puff some "sevin dust" into the entrance hole with a dispenser if you do not want to use the "boiling water" method.
4. For nests in walls or attics, I would recommend contacting a pest controller since colonies in these locations are more difficult to treat.
5. For aerial nests, I would recommend using a good brand of insecticide spray which is known to kill wasps and hornets on contact. I prefer to use wasp and hornet killers which have jet sprays that reach nests from twelve to twenty feet above ground. These sprays work very well on exterminating aerial colonies. When you spray a nest with any of these insecticides you should not position yourself directly beneath it because the wasps or hornets may fall on you. When this happens you might get stung. You may have to treat the nest a couple of times before you can safely remove it. Wait at least twenty-four hours before removing the treated nest. It is not recommended to keep a nest after extermination because the dead larvae and pupae will rot inside the combs and STINK to high heaven!

*Note: You cannot get rid of a wasp or hornet colony by simply knocking down the nest because these insects would just start building a new one, usually in the same location or in an area nearby.


I would like to gratefully acknowledge "EnviroSafe, Inc." for allowing me to use their information on my website.

"This has been the greatest bee year I have ever seen. Not only are there a lot of bees, yellowjackets, hornets and wasps but they are far more aggressive than usual. Okay, so what can we do to resolve these problems?

First, please remember that these creatures are beneficial insects and not every one of them has to be eliminated. We need to remove the ones that pose a threat. Second, we can not solve the problem of bees flying in through open, unscreened windows.

Control: As mentioned above, if possible make sure you have screens on your windows and that they are in good repair.

If the bees are getting in please DO NOT GO OUTSIDE AND PLUG THE HOLE THEY ARE USING. DO NOT SPRAY ANYTHING INTO THEIR HOLE. The best thing to do is to set up a wet/dry vacuum with soap water in it and let it run from one hour before sunrise until one hour after sunset. Remember do not block the hole with the vacuum hose. Place the hose end one inch under the hole.

For ground hives at home, wait until a couple hours after dark and place a glass casserole lid over their hole. Put some dirt around the edge of the lid. Leave the lid in place for at least one week or until activity stops.

If you flood the hole at night by spraying three gallons of water mixed with 48 ounces of Lemon Joy you will kill the nest. Do not attempt to do this during the day, these are one of the most aggressive stinging insects. Please keep people out of the area of these nests until problem is solved.

Umbrella wasp nest or open combed nest. Fortunately, this species is not very aggressive - they just look it. These wasps just pick bad places to nest. They love playground tires, bleachers and corners of doors and windows. If this wasp is in an area that they are not bothering you leave them alone.

When control is necessary Lemon Joy mixed at 4 ounces per quart in a pump up sprayer will kill them. Please do this in the early morning or late evening. Also, it is important to knock the comb down and throw it away.

Dumpsters - please make sure bags are sealed. Make a two liter bee trap. This trap is made by removing the label from a two liter bottle and cutting the top off to form a funnel. Invert this funnel into the bottle and secure in place with duct tape. Place two inches of sweet pop in the trap and hang from inside your dumpsters or by your trash barrels."


1. Toothpaste soothes the pain and the itching which comes with a sting. Apply some to the sting site.
2. An ice-pack controls the swelling and numbs the sting.
3. Meat tenderizer works well when it is applied to the affected area.
4. A mixture of baking soda and water applied to the sting site is also an excellent remedy. The mixture should be thick so it will stick to the skin. It has a mealy paste-like texture.
5. Benadryl relieves the symptoms of a sting.
6. For people who are highly allergic to a sting, consult a physician immediately.


A lot of people frequently confuse bees and wasps. So I feel it is necessary to write this section. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard someone say "there's a bee" when it is really a yellowjacket or some other type of wasp. I've also had people mistake my hornet nests as "beehives". These situations tell me that most people are not very knowledgeable on wasps except on how their stings feel. This section should clear up any confusion involved. I will be using two typical examples for comparison: a honeybee and a yellowjacket.

1. Physical Appearance: A honeybee has more hair on its body than a yellowjacket wasp does. A yellowjacket's body is smoother. A honeybee also possesses pollen baskets located on both hind legs. A wasp does not have them.
2. Stinging Ability: A yellowjacket is very capable of withdrawing its stinger from the flesh and stinging again. A honeybee can only sting once because it cannot withdraw its stinger. Instead it is torn out of the insect's body along with the venom sac and remains anchored in the victim's flesh. The bee dies shortly afterward.
3. Nests: Yellowjackets construct their nests out of wood pulp (paper). They build their combs horizontally with the cells located on the bottom surface of each one. Honeybees construct their nests out of wax. They build their combs vertically with the cells located on both sides of each one.
4. Habits: Even their behavior is different. Yellowjackets expect something in return when they feed their larvae. The larvae are stimulated into secreting a sweet fluid from their salivary glands each time they are fed by an adult wasp. After giving the babies some food, the adults greedily lap up this cherished drink. This process is called trophallaxis (mutual feeding). It is very crucial for the bonding of the colony. It prevents the wasp community from breaking down. It is different with honeybees. They work for nothing in return from the larvae. Also, social wasps feed their young on chewed up insect prey ("hamburger"). Bees feed theirs on a mixture of nectar and pollen.

Credit for the above illustration goes to William E. Conner.


1. Interviewer- Hornetboy (Author)
2. Interviewee- Olive L. Boudreaux (Author's Grandmother)


Author: "What are your own personal feelings on social wasps?"
Grandmother: "Now that I've learned a little bit more about them, I still fear them - I am desperately afraid of them, but I realize that they are necessary to nature."
Author: "Are you allergic to wasp stings?"
Grandmother: "I am not allergic, per se I will be in danger of them, but I don't like the stings."
Author: "Do you think wasps are useful?"
Grandmother: "Yes, they are very useful."
Author: "Do you think they are pests?"
Grandmother: "Well, I don't now because I realize the use of them in nature, but before I learned more about them I thought that they were just aggravating pests and should all be destroyed."
Author: "What do you feel is the most interesting thing about wasps and hornets?"
Grandmother: "Well, it is their ability to help people by feeding on destructive or harmful insects. Which I did not know before. I have since learned through you and that has helped me to realize they are useful to people."
Author: "Tell me about any interesting or unusual experiences with wasps that you can remember."
Grandmother: "Once I was cutting grass on my riding mower in the front yard and when I realized that I had disturbed a nest of ground hornets (yellowjackets), I didn't know what they were, I was within six feet of the swarm. They were coming out of the earth like a cloud. When I realized what it was, I was about to run into them. I turned the tractor away and then I came as quickly as I could to the house. I was so frightened that I was shaking. Then I had that nest destroyed underground because - oh - there were thousands of them! I've never seen such a big swarm. It was like a huge black cloud when they were coming out of the ground. I had a yard man here and he destroyed them. He found where the ground hornets were coming in and out. Afterwards, he poured gasoline down into the hole and lit it. This destroyed the whole nest, but I was so frightened. I was scared to go back into the yard."
Author: "If you had a choice between facing a barrel of snakes and a wasp nest --"
Grandmother: "I would take the barrel of snakes because the snakes would run from me, but the wasps will not. They will come back over and over and sting me over and over. If I had run into that hole of wasps, they would have covered me! They would have killed me! I am not allergic to one or two stings, but I would be if I ran into a nest like that.

One time I was fishing with a friend in a boat. There was a log over the water. I decided to fish on the other side of the log. So, I threw my line across and I was very close to the log. When I realized there was a nest underneath the log, we were already anchored. When I told my friend to cut the anchor, she finally cut it. I was able to move the boat away from the nest, but the wasps came after us. They stung me fourteen times and they stung her three or four times. I was the closest to the disturbed nest and they covered me. I just didn't know how to get rid of them. Then we went back to the car and I put some antiseptic on the stings. They didn't bother me as much as they did with my friend because she had to do to the doctor for her stings though she had only three. Fortunately, she didn't have as many as I had. The antiseptic did the trick for me because I was not as susceptible to the stings as she was.

I called some students from Louisiana State University (LSU) because I had two large (Polistes) nests on the screens of the upstairs bedroom windows. The nests were tremendous. They must have been at least six inches across. I couldn't get to them or reach them. I had heard on T.V. that some LSU students were hunting for live wasps for experiments. The men came after dark. They were wearing covers for their faces and sting-proof suits. They wanted to take the wasps while they were in a dormant state, more or less sleeping at night. That's why they came at night because the wasps were not as active as they were in the daytime. The people took the nests and the wasps, all whole, and brought them back to the lab for experiments."
Author: "How do you handle problem wasp nests?"
Grandmother: "My grandson usually destroys them for me. I am scared of them. I don't go near them. If he is not around to help me, I use a long pole with a whole lot of newspapers tied to the end of it. I ignite it and then put it to the nest. Some of them fly away, but most are scorched. If they are in the entrances of my doors, which often that's where they are, I try to destroy them because I don't want them there."
Author: "Do you have a fear of hornets, yellowjackets, or wasps?"
Grandmother: "Yes, very much so! The experiences I had with them were not pleasant."
Author: "Do you know the difference between a bee and a wasp?"
Grandmother: "Yes, I recognize them. I know the difference."
Author: "Is there anything else you would like to add? Do you have any questions, comments, or suggestions?"
Grandmother: "I don't think so. I think we covered it as far as my knowledge of the subject."

*Note: I highly discourage people using gasoline to destroy underground nests because it will saturate into the soil which would pollute the environment. Also, I DO NOT recommend trying to burn out aerial nests which are built on structures because of the risk of fire damage to the buildings.


The species of social wasps which are in the genera Vespula, Dolichovespula, and Vespa build elaborate paper nests. The nests consist of multiple tiers of horizontal combs which are protected by an envelope. Typically their nests are globular in shape.

There are 16 species of yellowjackets (Vespula, Dolichovespula) and 1 species of hornet (Vespa) which are found in North America. They are as follows: Vespula germanica (German yellowjacket), V. flavopilosa (hybrid yellowjacket), V. maculifrons (eastern yellowjacket), V. vulgaris (common yellowjacket), V. pensylvanica (western yellowjacket), V. atropilosa (prairie yellowjacket), V. acadica (forest yellowjacket), V. vidua, V. consobrina (blackjacket), V. intermedia, V. sulphurea (California yellowjacket), V. squamosa (southern yellowjacket), Dolichovespula norvegicoides, D. arenaria (aerial yellowjacket), D. albida, D. maculata (baldfaced hornet), and Vespa crabro (European hornet). Actually there are 18 species if you count the 2 species of parasitic yellowjackets, Dolichovespula arctica and Vespula austriaca (which do not have a worker caste).

Credit for the above guide goes to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Credit for the above key goes to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

There are two groups of yellowjackets: Vespula and Dolichovespula. The first group (Vespula) typically build their nests in concealed places such as inside the walls of houses, underground, etc. In some species in the Vespula group, the nests are typically large with up to 5,000 workers per nest. Also, the nests are generally made from decayed wood fibers which makes them brittle. The nests are tan or brown in color. The second group (Dolichovespula) typically build their nests in exposed locations such as hanging from the limbs of trees, beneath the eaves of buildings, etc. The nests are not as large as Vespula nests and the colonies are also smaller (up to 700 workers per nest). Also, Dolichovespula nests are made from a sounder type of wood fibers which makes them stronger and more durable than Vespula nests. The nests are greyish in color. Bald-faced hornets' (Dolichovespula maculata) nests and aerial yellowjackets' (Dolichovespula arenaria) nests look very similar. However, you can usually tell the difference between the two by inspecting the outer walls of the nests. A bald-faced hornets' nest has larger stripes in the outer wall than an aerial yellowjackets' nest does. Also, the outer wall in a mature bald-faced hornets' nest usually has a scalloped appearance (especially near the top of the nest). An aerial yellowjackets' nest usually is not scalloped. By the way, attacking D. arenaria workers can actually spray venom out of their stingers!

Credit for the above Dolichovespula nest photo goes to Mark Staben.

Hornets are social wasps in the genus Vespa. The European hornet (Vespa crabro) is the only true hornet in North America. This wonderful creature was introduced into the New York City area in the mid-1800's. It has established itself and spread to the Mississippi River since then. They typically build their nests in concealed locations such as inside of hollow trees, beneath porches, etc. Their nests are similar to Vespula nests in that they are both made from decayed wood fibers and they are both brittle. Also, both groups tend to build their nests in concealed places. Here are a couple of differences between them (of course there are a lot more): The European hornets are much larger than yellowjackets. This means Vespa crabro nests are often large because of the large size of the cells. There can be up to 1,000 workers in a large nest. However, a typical nest has approximately 300-400 workers. European hornets can also be active at night, unlike yellowjackets. The workers are attracted to lighted windows in homes. As a result, they often crash against window panes sometimes scaring the people inside!

Vespa nest photo by: Dr. E. Billig,

Speaking of hornets, the majority of people assume the bald-faced hornet (Dolichovespula maculata) is a hornet. Though is it really? The United States Department of Agriculture says, "In the United States, the term 'hornet' is generally applied to two species (Dolichovespula maculata, Vespa crabro) and sometimes to all aerial-nesting yellowjackets. Technically, however, only species in the genus Vespa (of which V. crabro is the only North American example) are hornets." The USDA also states, "Dolichovespula maculata, the bald-faced 'hornet', is an atypically large, black and white yellowjacket..." So, bald-faced hornets are indeed yellowjackets!

For additional information, read:
by Akre, Greene, MacDonald, Landolt and Davis.
USDA Agricultural Handbook #552. 1980.

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