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How To Get Rid of Hornets & Yellowjackets

At some point in your life, you may have been the unfortunate victim of a hornet or yellowjacket. Some of our most uncomfortable childhood memories involve that painful, burning sting. 

It turns out, though, that the winged attackers have different attitudes toward their human targets. The largest of the two, hornets also have the most severe sting and can even kill you.

Needless to say, having a hive nearby can pose a significant risk. We’ll look at ways to eliminate hornets and yellowjackets so you can enjoy sitting outside in peace. 

Let’s check it out!

What Are Hornets?

One of the easiest ways to tell whether you’re dealing with hornets or yellowjackets is by their size. Hornets are some of the biggest stinging insects. They range from one inch to one and a half inches in length. The murder hornet, an Asian species, can grow to two inches or larger.

Another way to tell the difference is by the color. While some hornets have the same yellow and black coloring as yellowjackets, typically, hornets are red or brownish in color. If you see a black and yellow insect, and it’s bigger than your average yellowjacket, you might be dealing with a European hornet. 

Finally, hornets build their nests in naturally occurring shelters. They love rotting stumps, building eaves, or even underground areas. If they can get into your garage or attic space, they may also build in the rafters. 

Hornets also cover their nests in a paper-like substance they excrete by chewing wood and mixing it with their saliva. A nest can hold up to one thousand hornets. 

What’s the Difference Between Hornets and Yellowjackets?

So, now you know a little bit about hornets, let’s look at their cousins, the yellowjacket. They tend to be smaller, sometimes only half the size, than hornets. Worker yellowjackets are usually only half an inch long, but the queen may grow up to one inch in length. 

While yellowjackets share the same coloring as honeybees, they’re smooth rather than fuzzy. If you’re close enough to one to notice that detail, you’re close enough to know they’re aggressive. 

Out of most wasps, yellowjackets are more likely to sting and do it repeatedly. They can hit you multiple times before they decide to fly off. 

Yellowjacket nests frequently appear in unexpected places. Rodent burrows, garages, attics, trees, and even shrubs attract these stinging insects. Because of their smaller size, a basketball-sized hive can hold around four thousand flying menaces. 

Pro Tip: Bugs be gone! Use these 5 Tips to Keep Bugs Out of Your RV for good!

Beehive worker removing hornet nest
Getting rid of hornets can be dangerous if not done correctly. Take caution when removing wasps.

What Do They Eat?

Hornets are carnivores and eat other insects as their primary prey. They’re known to eat grasshoppers, crickets, caterpillars, wasps, and other backyard pests. Occasionally they eat fallen fruit and tree sap, but for the most part, they stay away from picnics and humans. 

Yellowjackets are scavengers and opportunists. If you’ve had a picnic ruined by flying insects, they were likely yellowjackets. Sugary tree sap is their primary food, but they also eat other insects, including honeybees. 

Grilling outside and picnics attract them because their primary food sources are just lying around waiting for them. Juice, soda, raw meat, and other picnic foods all attract yellowjackets in large numbers.  

Are Hornets and Yellowjackets Aggressive?

Hornets aren’t typically aggressive because of their size. They tuck their nests in hard-to-reach places, and they’d rather fly under the radar. 

But with that said, murder hornets are more aggressive than other species. If you’re close to their nest, these hornets will attack, but they won’t seek out a fight. 

Yellowjackets are extremely aggressive, especially in the late summer and early fall. Unlike honeybees which have a barb on their stingers, yellowjackets have a smooth stinger. 

They can sting multiple times when they attack and still fly off to live another day. They’re highly territorial, and they’ll let you know immediately if you enter their space. 

The good news about yellowjackets is that they all die off by the end of the fall. Fortunately, you won’t have to keep an eye out for them after that time. 

What Should You Do if You Get Stung?

Treatment for stings from either hornets or yellowjackets is the same. First and foremost, stay calm and remove the stinger if it’s still in your skin. Use a fingernail or credit card to pull it out. 

Once you’ve removed the stinger, wash the area with warm, soapy water. Apply a cold pack to reduce swelling in the area. You may also use a hydrocortisone cream to lessen the pain of the sting. 

If you’re allergic to these insects, you should seek immediate medical attention. And, if a swarm attacks you, you’ll likely need a trip to the emergency room for the sheer amount of venom in your body. 

Close up of a hornet nest
Remove the nest first to get rid of any hornets or yellowjackets for good.

Can You Prevent Hornets and Yellowjackets From Nesting on Your Property?

The best way to remove nests from your property is to prevent them from nesting there in the first place. In the spring, inspect your property and ensure there aren’t places they’d like to build a nest. 

Gaps in buildings, broken siding, and small crevices are inviting spaces for hornets to build nests. If you’ve got holes in your yard from burrowing critters, fill them in. Hornets and yellowjackets might take advantage of the space and move in.

You can also remove things that attract these insects. They like cellulose material, cardboard, and wood to build their nests. Removing potential food sources is also an excellent rule to follow. Seal food scraps in plastic bags and keep trash cans covered. 

If you’re lucky enough to have fruit trees on your property, remove fallen fruit regularly to keep it from attracting these scavengers. 

How Do You Get Rid of Hornets and Yellowjackets?

Because these insects are territorial, you’ll want to take precautions when removing nests and seek help when necessary. 

Choose the right time of day to approach the task of removing a nest. Most hornets and yellowjackets are active during the day, so wait until the evening. 

Use a long-distance spray that allows you some protection by standing a good distance away. Additionally, wear long sleeves, pants, and goggles when approaching the hive. Spray the area, thoroughly soaking their home. Then, wait. Give the poison time to work. 

One application might be enough, but you should check the hive the following day to make sure. If it doesn’t take care of the problem, spray again. 

Whatever you do, don’t get on a ladder to remove the nest. While you may think using a long-distance spray will keep them from reaching you, underestimating their actions could be dangerous. If they do swarm, you’ll be stung and could fall from the ladder.

Call the professionals if you aren’t sure you can remove the nest safely on your own due to allergy, distance, or fear of heights. And if you’ve got a mega-hive in your walls, definitely call the pros. 

Pro Tip: Nobody loves being surprised with creepy crawlies in their home! Use this guide on How to Easily Get Rid of Cockroaches.

Learn to Live Cohesively With Stinging Insects

Hornets and yellowjackets are important parts of the ecosystem but don’t belong in your house. Using the tips we provided, you’ll be able to identify what you’re dealing with and take appropriate steps to remove these pests from your property. 

They can still plague your picnic at the park, but at least you know they’re not out for blood. Just move the trash can further away from the eating area, and you’ll be fine.

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