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How to Get Rid of Hornets in House, Ground, or Tree.

By way of introduction, here is a hornet-related anecdote: There was once a female septuagenarian who lived in a suburb of Birmingham, Alabama. This woman owned a colonial style home with a large, covered front porch. On this porch was a very active hornet’s nest perched on one of the inside eaves. One summer day, a boy of eleven, hoping to make a little extra money cutting lawns, knocked on this elderly lady’s door and asked if she needed her grass cut.

She did not, as it turned out though there was the matter of the hornet’s nest on the porch, which she was willing to pay handsomely (twenty dollars…a full Andrew Jackson!) to have removed. The boy confessed his reticence. He had no experience with removing hornet’s nests and was pretty terrified of being stung.

The old woman assured him his fears were unfounded because she new some folk hoodoo that would repel the hornets. All the boy had to do, according to the matriarch, was to rub his hands in his armpits, and then smear the sweat over his exposed skin. If the boy did this, he could not be stung. Since he was only a naive young boy, and she seemed a sweet grand motherly type, he took her at her word and promptly followed her advice.

He coated his entire body with the stench of his own armpit (quite potent, as it was summer after all, and the normal school night shower requirements had become more relaxed), then approached the buzzing nest with trembling arms extended. For her part, the elderly woman immediately sought the protection of her screen door. Later, as he ran screaming down the street, stinging insects attacking his back, neck, legs, and- ironically- his right armpit, the young boy could hear the witch cackling from behind her screen door. It was a sound the boy would never forget.

She did not, as it turned out though there was the matter of the hornet’s nest on the porch, which she was willing to pay handsomely (twenty dollars…a full Andrew Jackson!) to have removed. The boy confessed his reticence. He had no experience with removing hornet’s nests and was pretty terrified of being stung. The old woman assured him his fears were unfounded because she new some folk hoodoo that would repel the hornets. All the boy had to do, according to the matriarch, was to rub his hands in his armpits, and then smear the sweat over his exposed skin.

If the boy did this, he could not be stung. Since he was only a naive young boy, and she seemed a sweet grand motherly type, he took her at her word and promptly followed her advice. He coated his entire body with the stench of his own armpit (quite potent, as it was summer after all, and the normal school night shower requirements had become more relaxed), then approached the buzzing nest with trembling arms extended. For her part, the elderly woman immediately sought the protection of her screen door. Later, as he ran screaming down the street, stinging insects attacking his back, neck, legs, and- ironically- his right armpit, the young boy could hear the witch cackling from behind her screen door. It was a sound the boy would never forget.

Needless to say, if you have discovered a hornet’s nest on your property, the above-cited method is not the safest way to remove the potential danger. The remainder of this article will focus on proven techniques that will allow you to remove this painful pest from your home with as minimal risk as possible.

What is a Hornet?

For starters, hornets are not just a mascot for the NBA team based in Charlotte, North Carolina, but are members of the Genus Vespa, and are closely related to yellow jackets (Link-1). Though not as aggressive as their aforementioned cousin, hornets are known to be territorial and will attack, in swarms, if they feel that their nest has been threatened (Link-4).

Likewise, their stings have the same score on the Schmidt Pain Index (Link-2) as yellow jackets and honeybees, and has a bite described as,

“Similar to getting your hand mashed in a revolving door.”

As an added bonus, hornets are ale to one-up bees yet again since a single hornet is capable of stinging an offender multiple times. Unless you are a masochist, chances are that this experience is something you would like to avoid. You can prevent this by knowing how to spot a hornet’s nest.

The Hornet’s Nest

Hornet’s nests typically look like some unholy mutation of a beehive and a wasp’s nest, meaning that they have a paper-like consistency derived from their being constructed of saliva and wood pulp (Link-3), but are typically fully enclosed with only a small “door” that allows the insects to come and go as they please, and can usually be found in trees, rafters, or under eaves- the moral being that hornets like concealment and cover. Unlike bees, hornets do not make honey or pollinate plants, but rather act as predators feeding off other insects, which can be beneficial.

Breaking Out the Hives

As is the case with any pest control problem, the safest and most effective way to rid your property of an infestation is to consult a professional. If, for financial or other reasons, this is not possible, here are a few tips that should help you accomplish this safely:

  • Protect Yourself– Wear layers of clothing, rubber gloves, boots, and some type of veil or face shield. Tape up sleeve and collar openings so that you don’t end up with a “friend” inside your clothing (Link-5). The thicker the material, the better.
  • Attack at Night– Like most of us, hornets like to spend their evenings with family and unwinding on the sofa. Once the sun sets, it is a pretty safe bet that you will have all the hornets concentrated in that one area (Link-6).
  • Use a Flashlight: Makes sense, right? After all, it’s nighttime, and you have to see what you’re doing…but everyone knows how insects react to a light in the darkness. In order to not attract unwanted attention from your would be prey, wrap the end of your flashlight in red cellophane (Link-7).
  • The Spray Method: The most important piece of advice that can be given here is to choose a sprayer capable of propelling a stream several feet, because you will want to be as far removed from the nest as possible while spraying. Also, you are going to need to spray a constant, steady stream inside the Ritz cracker-sized opening (Link-8). This is the only way in, and the only way out- meaning, if the hornets want to counter-attack, they’ll have to take a blast of pesticide to the face in order to do so. Spray until you can’t spray anymore.
  • The Natural Way: For those who aren’t fond of pesticides, there is a more natural way of getting rid of hornets, all you need is a bucket, water, vinegar, sugar, and a little dish soap. Mix these ingredients together in the bucket in roughly equal portions, and set it under the nest. Soon, the hornets should begin drowning themselves in your concoction. Change out as necessary (Link-9).

Sometimes Hornets Nearby is No Cause to Worry

It is important to remember that hornets are valuable members of our ecosystem. Just because you can see a hornet’s nest, it does not mean that the hornet’s nest represents a threat. Since hornets do prey upon other insects, they help to bring balance to the ecosystem on a micro level, and, therefore, should not simply be removed to be removed. Only exterminate the hornets if they are located in a high traffic area where they present a danger to people. If it is necessary to remove a nest from your property, take each and every precaution outlined above in order to ensure your safety and, as always, consult a professional if at all possible.