Removing Hornets Nests

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by Little Quacker in OR, Aug 12, 2004.

  1. Little Quacker in OR

    Little Quacker in OR Well-Known Member

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    :)

    Well, it’s that time of year in most places. It’s hot and dry and the wasps and hornets are testy and even the mild mannered honey bee is a bit irritated and grumpy. They know that winter is coming too, and must hurry before the first freeze comes.

    To avoid unpleasantness and possibly a sting keep aware of what’s happening around you. If you are working around your hay, wood pile, potting bench, flowers, stock etc…. pay attention. When you get consistently “buzzed” in a certain place look around carefully, chances are you are being “warned off”.

    Some members of this helpful and valuable family of insects will “slap” or “bounce” off of you to warn you that you are too close to the nest. They might ruffle your hair by a close “fly-by”. It’s easy to ignore these warnings and think it’s just a fly etc. Don’t. DO, pay attention. IF the nest is in a place where it’s a danger then you need to do something about it.

    Don’t undertake this just because you see a nest. Unless the insects are a definite danger and right in the path of family etc. leave them alone. This family is a valuable resource for humans and all of our food resources. They not only pollinate crops and flowers(badly needed with the demise of the honeybee)they are super predators and hunt and kill many problem bugs. Yesterday I watched about a dozen paper wasps sitting around the 5 gal bucket I keep filled for my dogs. I have been distracted lately and haven’t dumped that bucket every day and there were a few mosquito larvae in it. Instead of doing that very thing I watched the wasps. They were fishing! They lurked right there, hanging over the water from the rim of the bucket and when a larvae wiggled up under them, they snatched it! These predators will also hover over horses and cattle etc. and wait for a biting fly to land....then...ZAP! They will snatch it right off of the stocks’ back or face and toodle off with it.

    We all know how to deal with paper wasps and other multiple-opening-nests when we have too, it’s why hornet and wasp spray is made. But it’s a different approach needed with hornets. Their nests have only one opening and if you spray something in there you are asking for trouble.

    Here’s what you need if you must remove the nest like I had to do a couple of nights ago. I have never been stung doing this but it still makes my hands shake and my knees weak. Not good if you’re on a ladder! LOL :no:

    Flashlight-.this is important, as you will only do this WHEN IT IS FULL DARK! If you attempt it while there is still light enough to see….good luck!

    A couple of Kleenex sheets or a light, small, Hanky. Paper toweling is too large for the hornets we have here.

    Sharp, Plant Snips

    One Tall Kitchen Bag or any plastic bag that you can twist the top closed securely.

    Ladder or Step Stool if needed.

    Freezer Space large enough to hold the wrapped up nest….or lacking that a deep canyon or cliff.

    Assemble your tools while it’s still light and if needed use something light colored to mark where the nest is hanging. I like to place a hose below it if I can, they are easy to see at night….or one of the white garbage bags. It helps to have someone to give you a hand if you are using a ladder or step stool and the moral support is good.

    BE SURE IT IS FULL DARK!!!!

    Then stagger out there with your tools. Get up where you are close enough to the nest to reach it without fumbling around. You do NOT want to fumble here! Open the plastic bag and have it ready. Shine the light on the entrance to the nest and lightly stuff the hanky or Kleenex into the opening to close it up and keep the hornets inside. They will react to this intrusion by making lots of noise but they won’t be able to get out. Then, quickly slip the plastic bag up around the nest and snip it off so that it goes down into the bag. Twist the top closed securely and dispose of the contents as above. You don’t want to leave the hornets in the plastic bag just sitting around. They will chew through the sides in no time at all. So, get it in the freezer overnight to kill them, or fling the bag off of the above suggested topographical features. Naturally you don’t want to litter so you will retrieve the bag some other time. :rolleyes: The first real freeze will kill the insects and your freezer will do the same. Then go have a glass of wine or a special cup of coffee. You’ve earned it!

    Hope this helps if you are faced with a necessary Hornet’s Nest removal.

    Have fun…LQ
     
  2. Michael W. Smith

    Michael W. Smith Well-Known Member

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    Wow Little Quacker, you are brave!! :eek:

    Just how many times have you done this? Glad you mentioned all the good things they do instead of destroying all that you find. Since they are good insects (when they leave you alone), what would happen if you take your plastic bag to some remote place in your yard, and just let it there? I wonder if they would move or just resume their normal life - albeit on the ground instead of a nest up high.

    Any time I need one to remove, I know who to call!! Don't think I would ever get the nerve to stick kleenex up the nest hole!!
     

  3. Meg Z

    Meg Z winding down

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    Perfect!

    I just found a lovely hornets nest on my place. It's in a bad location, but we're hoping to let it die for winter, then save it. I was wondering how to make sure everyone was dead when the time came, and I hadn't thought of the freezer! Thanks! :worship:

    It's in a low (Like head high for my son, but I could walk under it..and have!) branch of a silver maple by the barn. The branch hangs over the chicken moat. I've seen the occasional hornet around the chicken house, but not many, so hadn't thought much about it. But two days ago something had all the chickens scared to death to go out of the hen house, and I was looking for whatever it was...thinking hawk, snake, whatever, so was looking pretty sharp, and just happened to be at the right angle. Never did figure out what had the chickens spooked.

    They've been helping all summer to keep the flies down, and I didn't notice. And it's bigger than my head! (Bushy tree branch)

    So, we're gonna wait until after it freezes, then cut that whole limb off. I wouldn't mind hornets again next year, but I'd prefer them in the Top of the tree!

    So, thanks Quaker, for the freezer idea!

    Meg :)
     
  4. Little Quacker in OR

    Little Quacker in OR Well-Known Member

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    :) Y'all are welcome! LOL Not brave at all Michael..did you miss the part about my hands shaking and my knees turning to water? LOL

    This is about the sixth time I've done this. Helped my neighbor out with his. I have finaly convinced him that my method is better than using the flamer thrower that he caught his barn on fire with! LOL :rolleyes:

    Those nests are quite delicate, even putting the tissue in the hole, I have to support the nest from the back side. So I would like to know how to preserve them? Does anyone have a clue?

    As to where I actually move the nest to..just kidding about the cliff or canyon. I untwist the plastic bag, BUT don't open it...put it either up on the crotch of a tree, away from foot traffic or down by the riverbank so they have a ready source of water and get the heck out of there. You don't want to go strolling around in the vicinity for a bit..they stay mad for a few days. I see hornet activity around these areas when I look but I sure don't get too close! LOL

    LQ :)
     
  5. mygrayfarm

    mygrayfarm Well-Known Member

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    We remove wasp and hornet nests that are on the barn - wouldn't want the animals to get stung.

    Every Saturday when we do the deep-cleaning down in the barn, we check beams and rafters for nests. That way, we get them when they're really small. We don't want to use insecticides so close to the animals, so we blast the nests with water. That usually knocks them down and chases the wasps and hornets away. Then we can throw a plastic bag over the nest, bang on it with a shovel, and kill the larvae before we throw the nests away.

    This is probably not a very safe method but it has worked for us and we have not had to use any toxic sprays. Neither have we been stung!

    Having said that, watch me get some live ones this weekend...
     
  6. Nancy in Maine

    Nancy in Maine Well-Known Member

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    I have a good sized one coming along on the eave of my garden shed, right next to the door. I'm sure I'm not brave enough to get anywhere near enough to take it down, Little Quacker. I'm sure it's a clever idea and all, but I don't like getting stung. These are those mean black hornets with the white butts. I thought it would be fun to shoot it with my 410. :D

    Back years ago when we were first married, we had a hornet's nest starting by the kitchen door. My husband and brother took a long stick, tied a bottle rocket to it, lit it and stuck it up inside the hole of the nest. It was so funny because one lone bee came flying out of the remains like "Woodstock" in the comic strip "Peanuts". :haha: He looked drunk or something.

    I'll either shoot it or wait 'til a frosty morning to take it down. Here in Maine that own't be too far off. :( Thakfully, there's nothing in the shed right now that I'll be needing.
     
  7. gobug

    gobug Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Little Q

    I like the way you explain how these insects are truly beneficial.

    I have also done the bag routine many times, but it can be done any time. It doesn't work too well if the nest is not on a branch that you can get the bag around. You don't need to do it in the dark. In fact, the wasps/hornets usually work on the outside surface of the nest in the nighttime. They will come to the flashlight. I have been stung in the dark believing there is less risk. They still greet you if you give them the chance.

    I find it easier to deal with them in the daylight. I rarely wear protective gear because I do this so often and have a feel for the task. Yet, I recommend a protective layer of clothing, gloves, and a net to cover your head. It really depends on how many wasps are in the air around the nest. If its a lot, I wear the protective gear.

    The problem with wasp and hornet sprays is that they are too liquid. They don't fill the nest with vapors. They are like a garden hose in that the chemical does not go around corners. The easiest way to get them is with an aerosol that comes out as a cloud and also has a straw injector tip. (I always use these, and have seen them recently in the hardware stores) If you use this kind of product it will last for many nests instead of using several cans on one nest.

    As you approach the nest, you spray the guards at the opening. Then you stick the straw through the opening or even right through the side of the nest. Then you step back for a bit in case any wasps were coming home while you were killing the nest. This only takes about 5 seconds. The job is basically done. Since I get paid for this, I usually position myself near the opening, but not blocking it, so workers bringing lunch home to the nest can get to their door. I make myself small and position the spray can so I don't have to move. Then I zap them right at the opening. I don't fret about the arriving workers unless they start to buzz me. If they do, I just wave the sprayer around to make a cloud of spray near me and they quickly leave. The outside workers will die if the nest is dead. They cannot lay eggs nor eat the food they collect, so they are doomed. You don't have to set there and nail the homecoming workers, it just takes care of the job a little faster.
     
  8. RAC

    RAC Guest

    This is interesting. We usually get them when they're small nests, and just kind of smash the nest where it is with a hoe.
     
  9. gobug

    gobug Well-Known Member Supporter

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    That is a different kind of wasp and works just fine. Since some of the wasps are out working when you smash that kind of wasp they will often rebuild the nest within a few days after it has been smashed.
     
  10. ginnie5

    ginnie5 wife,mom,taxi driver,cook Supporter

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    when I was little there was a HUGE hornets nest at my gparents house. It was too high to get too easily. In the V of the porch roof. My grandpaw took the longest stick he could find and wrapped a rag around it and soaked it with gasoline. Then when it was almost dark we stood on the screen porch and he held that rag up to the hornets nest. Its a wonder he didn't get stung. Those things were all over the place for a few minutes. We kept that nest for a long time. I remember tearing it apart and him showing us the insides of it.
     
  11. Little Quacker in OR

    Little Quacker in OR Well-Known Member

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    :)

    :) Holy Cow gobug! You are not only an expert with this but a brave one too! No way would I tackle a hornets nest during the day! I don't like breathing insecticide vapors much either! I will leave that day time stuff to you experts. :eek:

    I will disagree, just a little bit mind you, re the activity shown by this species here re night time. The species I am dealing with, as far as I can tell, is Vespula maculata, The Bald Faced Hornet(actually IS a species of yellowjacket I think?). These are fairly small being only about 5/8 "long at the most. Don't know if there are sub species that differ a bit in nocturnal activities? Any ideas? Of course when we put the bag in front of the car headlights maybe they could be as big as 3/4". By that time I am suffering from "combat fatigue" and can't tell much. :haha:

    They do "go to bed" though. No activity outside of the nest once it's full dark. No "guards" outside like there is in the daytime. Never had them come out because of the flashlight but I confess I do this procedure as fast as I can and I don't dawdle around. Too nervous! LOL When I look at nests at night just out of curiosity without considering removal, I see no activity at all. This may be the result of cooler temps too, as our nights are quite cool here, even if the days are in the 90's.

    I've removed and assisted on removal of a number of these..not all were on tree branches(only did six myself though). Some hanging under porches etc. It worked well in each case.

    I had a gentleman come out here many years ago that collected these hornets for the venom and sold them to a lab for antivenin manufacture. He was very instructive and he stressed that here at least, I'd better get it done at night. While instructing me on procedure he did use the light a lot on the nests, made me nervous! LOL He did say that if a person was just studying the hornets then it was best to cover the light source with red cellophane.

    Sure wish you were here so you could give more advice on species and habits. My Audubon Society's Field Guide list some species that they say only sip nectar..but I do see them hunting other creatures. I wonder if they feed these prey creatures to their young?

    I am grateful that we do not have Cicada Killer Wasps here! Does anyone out there have them?

    Thanks gobug, I for one am real glad you are on this forum!

    LQ
     
  12. countrygrrrl

    countrygrrrl PITA

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    Wow, LQ, really interesting!

    I've been really excited about all the bumblebees and honeybees I have around here, but was upset to find out a couple of weeks ago that I also have velvet ants (cow killers) which feed on honeybees. :waa:

    Coincidentally, I also noticed an alarming decrease in all the huge bumblers and smaller bees that were everywhere here. In fact, for a week or so, i saw none.

    :waa:

    Til this morning. When I went to check the tomatoes, here comes one of those big huge gigantic bumblers to chase me away from the tomatoes! :D

    Never been so glad to see an insect in my whole life.
     
  13. Cyngbaeld

    Cyngbaeld In Remembrance Supporter

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    Some yellow jackets had a nest going right by my front door. I had concrete steps leading from the street level up to the yard and they were nested right on the edge of the steps. I didn't pay much attention to them till I was stung. Then it was a declaration of war!

    I took the shop vac and put the nozzle next to the hole. Ran it intermittently (didn't want to burn up the motor) for the next couple days. Running it mostly right at first when there were so many coming and going. Then checking on it occasionally and running the vac if there was any activity. It cleared them out for a week or so. Then there was more activity and I repeated the vacuuming. That cleared it up. I just sucked up the wasps as they were landing, ready to enter, or if I saw one starting to exit.


    I have stuffed tissue saturated in alcohol into wasps nests prior to removing them and was not stung. I don't do insectisides.
     
  14. snoozy

    snoozy Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Recently I asked started a thread about the best way to get rid of paper wasps (they were yellowjackets, actually) who had built a nest right above our deck door. Someone suggested auto starting fluid, which is mainly ether. I tried it and it worked great. $2.59. I just gave it a good shot of the spray from about 2 feet away. A few yellowjackets fell out dead, and after a few hours I gave it one more shot, just to be sure, and I saw no more activity after that. Next day I knocked it down with a broom. No survivors.
     
  15. gobug

    gobug Well-Known Member Supporter

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    thanks LQ,

    I don't breathe any insecticide vapors. I'm am more at risk than my customers because I do it all the time.

    I'm also not that brave. I just know when I need to wear my suit.

    We do have bald faced hornets here, but they are as big as bumble bees. They are a true hornet and no direct relation to yellow jackets. They have incredible nests, beautiful, almost works of art. I took one out of a tree and after exterminating the residents I put it up in the office for the technicians and visitors to see. After a month or so it started to reek. The dead larvae and pupae were stinking, so I threw it away.

    I have occasionally removed one of these nests in the daytime and found that the workers that were out collecting lunch rebuilt a new/smaller nest within days. This is somewhat incredible. When it comes to these social insects, the workers are all female! Furthermore, they cannot eat what they collect unless it is liquid because their mouth parts are not built for that. The larvae eat what the workers bring home and regurgitate it to feed the workers who in turn feed the queen. If you kill or remove the nest, the queen and larvae are dead or gone and the workers should perish. For the hornets to rebuild a nest means that at least one of them must be able to lay eggs. This usually requires a mating event. With yellow jackets, the queen lays eggs for new queens and male reproductives in September. When the queens are ready in mid-October they leave the nest with the males, mate and never return.

    Anyway, I really can't explain why you didn't see workers outside the nest. Paper nests are fragile and require continual work. When do you think they do this job? I am also not at all certain they ever rest as we know it. Perhaps the nests you took were large enough to not require an expansion crew at the time. Or maybe the time of the night that they work on the nest is later? I agree with you on no guards at the entry at night.

    We do have cicada killers, but I have never seen one alive. They are huge, but I don't know if they are aggressive like hornets and yellow jackets.

    Cyngbaeld
    As for pesticides, the dictionary says they are ANYTHING you use to kill a PEST. And a pest is anything you decide. The law calls it a pesticide if you sell it as one and requires you to prove effectiveness, label and license the product. Using gasoline vapors or ether vapors or alcohol does not make them safer than products labeled and sold as pesticides. All three of those chemicals are more toxic than the product I use. The alcolhol vapors killed the insects, do you really think its totally safe for you? I think you were lucky you didn't get stung when you stuffed something in the hole.

    Toxicity is like temperature, it is a measure. Everything has a toxicity. One advantage to using a product labeled for the job is it comes with safety directions.

    I exterminated a basketball sized yellow jacket nest over a high school door this morning at 8AM. I had to position a bucket so I could reach it. It took one second of chemical release. Then I knocked it down and stomped it. All of the chemical went into the nest. The chemical is a botanical grade pyrethrin, a chemical approved by the organization that licenses Organic Growers. If I can't remove a nest, I will set near the opening and pick off arriving workers until I am sure no wasps are still alive inside. This may use an ounce of chemical which has 2% pesticide. So were looking at about 1 gram of pesticide.

    I like the vacuum idea a lot. No chemical at all. Unfortunately, it's not always practical.