How to Get Rid of Hornets


Everyone knows them, everyone hates them. Hornets. These angry insects might look like bees, but they’re far from the honey-gathering bugs that pollinate your garden’s flowers. They’re a menace, one that can render your outdoor spaces unusable if they decide to move in. If that happens, you need to know how to get rid of hornets fast.

The thought of facing off against a legion of flying, stinging insects might seem daunting, especially when it comes to the dreaded bald-faced hornet. But thankfully there are methods of getting rid of hornets that won’t get you stung. Read this helpful guide for tips on how to identify, prevent, and exterminate a hornet infestation.

What are hornets?

hornet sitting

Hornet is a collective name referring to eusocial paper wasps in the genus Vespa. They can be distinguished from related species, such as yellow jackets and other wasps, by their teardrop-shaped abdomen, their size, and their proportionally-larger heads.

Like other wasps, hornets create a large nest out of a papery substance on spaces such as tree branches, eaves, and awnings, and will defend them with their lives. They may also make their nests underground or even in the walls of your home. The latter is a much more pressing threat and will likely require the help of a trained professional to remove. 

How to get rid of hornets

If you want to get rid of hornet or wasp nests, you have a few methods to choose from. When trying to exterminate a hornet nest, it’s very important to take the proper precautions. Wear thick protective clothing and a long-sleeved shirt, or a protective bee suit if you have access to one. Make sure you have eye and face protection.

Hornets are most active during the daytime, so the best time to try and get rid of a nest is at night or dawn. Your odds of being stung decrease, and since there are more in the nest, you’ll be exterminating more of the bugs at once. If you are allergic to their venom, do not approach a hornet nest. If all else fails, contact a professional exterminator for nest removal.

1. Pesticides

One option for getting rid of hornets is using a synthetic pesticide or insecticide. These come in sprays and dust. Sprays will be more effective against aerial nests, while dust will work better against ground nests. You should be able to find hornet killers at many major retail stores. There are many options, but some work better than others.

Tips for pesticides:

  • When using a spray, choose an aerosol can or bottle that has a jet nozzle and can spray from far away. Spray in the early morning when the most hornets will be inside the nest and there’ll be less activity. Coat the exterior of the hive with the spray and spray the entry point. Take cover and wait 24 hours before returning to the nest. Repeat as necessary.
  • When using a dust, surround all entrances to the nest before pouring it in. Again, do this in the early morning, wait 24 hours before returning, and repeat as necessary.

2. Traps

hornet trap
Danrok | Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 4.0

You can also use a trap for hornets. This won’t get rid of the nest, but it will help cut down their numbers and keep these bugs away from you. You can buy them in stores or make your own DIY wasp traps. Hornets primarily eat meat and sugars, so these will be the primary bait you’d put in a hornet trap.

Tips for hornet traps:

  • To make a sugar trap, cut off the top half of a two-liter soda bottle. For bait, use a sweet liquid such as sugar water or fruit juice in the lower half (avoid honey). Add vinegar so that it doesn’t attract helpful bees. Add a few drops of dish soap so that the hornets won’t be able to escape the water and will drown. Place the upper half of the bottle in the lower half upside-down and with the cap off. Make sure that the tip of the bottle is not touching the surface of the liquid. Place the trap out and watch it work.
  • You can add protein to make a trap extra enticing. Don’t try to use a protein trap without liquid, as the hornets will simply fly out.
  • Keep in mind the time of year. During the spring and early summer, hornets and wasps are more attracted to protein, while sugar will be more effective in the late summer and early fall.

3. Natural solutions

Of course, there are also other solutions for hornets, ones that you won’t need harmful chemicals for. One of these is diatomaceous earth. Diatomaceous earth is a fine white powder made from fossilized plankton called diatoms. On contact with insects, including hornets, it cuts open their exoskeletons and dehydrates them, eventually killing them.

Unfortunately, diatomaceous earth only works on ground nests. Surround any entrances to the nest with it and pour it in. When they leave, they’ll get the powder on them and eventually die. Those entering may also spread it throughout the nest.

4. Cover the nest

Another solution for a ground nest is to cover all the entrances. Cover the entrances with transparent plastic and not a material that hornets can chew through, like wood or cardboard. You can use this in conjunction with diatomaceous earth and other extermination methods or simply wait until they starve.

5. Soap and water

In the case of small aerial nests, you can eliminate them with nothing more than some soapy water. Once they come into contact with it, it will clog the spiracles that they use to breathe and suffocate them.

To exterminate a hornet’s nest with soapy water, add two tablespoons of dish soap for every two cups of water. You can drench the nest with a bucket, use a small spray bottle, or use a pump sprayer. 

Signs of hornets

If you believe there’s a hornet nest somewhere in your yard, garden, or house, there are a few things to look out for. In most areas, hornet queens hibernate underground in the wintertime and emerge in the spring to build their nest and lay their eggs. This is the time of year when you’ll need to keep the most eye out for hornets.

  • Sound. You may hear a buzzing or humming sound around where the hornets are nesting. If they’re in the walls, you may also hear paper crinkling.
  • Nests. A hornet nest is gray and papery and may be the size of a football, with the hornets entering and exiting through a small hole in the bottom.
  • Hornets are gathering. If there’s a certain spot you see hornets gathering at or returning to frequently, this may be the site of a nest.
  • Decrease in insects. If there are less of other insect types in your yard than usual, it may be due to hornets preying on them.

What attracts hornets to the yard?

There are a number of factors that might be attracting hornets to your home. Here are a few things that could be the cause of your hornet woes.

  • Food and water. Any food or stagnant water left out will draw in hornets.
  • Flowers. A large number of sweet-smelling fragrant flowers in your garden may be another attractor, along with any that are bright in color.
  • Outdoor structures. Any outdoor structures, such as sheds or even wood piles, could be considered prime nesting sites by hornets.
  • Untreated wood. Hornets construct their nests out of chewed wood pulp, so any wooden structures in your yard, such as decks, that haven’t been treated could become building material for hornets. You may also notice damage on trees from these pests.
  • Infestations. If you have a large multitude of other bugs in your yard or garden, they may be drawing in hornet populations.

How to prevent hornets

Erich Ferdinand / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Here are a few hornet control tips for preventing your yard, home, or garden from becoming a hornet nesting site:

  • Cover garbage cans. Keep any outdoor trash cans covered at all times so that they don’t become food sources for hornets.
  • Dry up stagnant water. Dry up any puddles and maybe put the birdbath away for a little while so that it doesn’t attract any hornets.
  • Seal any cracks in the outside of your home. Any cracks or crevices in the walls or siding, or any other spaces where hornets can access the inside of your home, should be sealed as soon as they develop so that no hornets take up residence.
  • Peppermint oil. Peppermint oil will help repel hornets. Spray or wipe it around any eaves or alcoves where they might build nests.
  • Fill holes. Any abandoned burrows left by small animals in your yard can easily become ground nests. If you find one and are sure it’s not still in use by another animal, fill it.
  • Remove stumps. Remove any tree stumps on your property so that hornets don’t nest in them.
  • Do not crush hornets. If you see a lone hornet in your yard, leave it alone. If squished, it will produce a pheromone that will attract more.

What to do if you get stung by a hornet

When you’re trying to get rid of hornets, it’s entirely possible you’ll be stung at least once. Thankfully, one sting is rarely harmful except in the case of allergies. Humans can typically tolerate 10 stings for every one pound of body weight. Hornet stings are more painful than other wasps due to a larger amount of the chemical acetylcholine.

  • If you are allergic to hornets, administer an epinephrine injection immediately and seek medical attention as soon as possible. If you are allergic to bees, you may be allergic to hornets, but are not necessarily. Check with your doctor to confirm what exactly will trigger a reaction before you’re in that situation. If you are unsure, still seek medical attention as soon as you can.
  • For those not allergic, disinfect any stings you have. Hornet stings may get infected if left open. They don’t typically leave their stingers in your skin, so you shouldn’t need to remove them. Take oral medication or apply topical ointment for any swelling or itching. Do not scratch the site of the sting, as this can cause additional irritation or infection.
  • If you have received multiple stings, you may require medical attention even if you’re not allergic.
  • No matter how many stings you receive or whether you’re allergic or not, keep an eye out for any symptoms resulting from the sting. You may have an allergy and not know it, even if it’s not a fatal one. Other complications such as infection are also not impossible even with precautions.

FAQ About Hornets

What should I do if hornets are swarming?

If you believe that hornets may be forming a swarm, do not panic. Sudden movements will attract them to you. Do not run and do not flail around. Walk away calmly and cover your face and neck. Get inside your house or car as soon as possible.

If hornets are actively swarming, the same principle applies. Running will only get you stung more. Do not jump in the water. They will wait you out, and you cannot hold your breath long enough to escape them. Get inside as soon as possible.

Is a hornet more dangerous than a wasp or yellow jacket?

Yes, but only marginally so. Hornets are larger and carry more venom than yellow jackets and other wasps, which makes them slightly more dangerous. Bald-faced hornets in particular are very aggressive and their stings are quite painful.

Are hornets good for anything?

There are some benefits to hornets. They’re pollinators, if not as prominent as honeybees. They also eat smaller pest insects such as aphids and mosquitoes.

Bring in the pros

If you have a major hornet problem that won’t go away no matter what, or if there’s a nest in your home, it’s time to call a professional. Your local pest control experts can help you get these insects away from your lawn and out of your life.

Main Image Credit: keith gallie / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Austin Geiger

Austin Geiger is an avid reader and writer. He has loved to read and write from a young age, and does both daily. His favorite subjects are fantasy and comedy, and he despises run-on sentences.