Should You Destroy Hornet Nests?

gaitten(6a)August 10, 2004

Ok, ok, ok... I know this is a beekeeping forum and that this is completely off topic. Still I thought I might find some good opinions from this group on this question.

I have discovered a couple of large nests of bald-faced hornets (Dolichovespula maculata) growing in the apple trees in my orchard. They are pretty much out of the way of most human and domestic activity and pose a low risk to children, neighbors and pets.

I have experienced (and satisfied) the overwhelming urge to destroy these nests on sight.

However in doing some reading on hornets, I find myself tempted to consider them beneficial to my garden and property. They kill lots of pests, serve as prey for wildlife and so long as I'm aware of them, don't really pose much of a problem.

So what do you think? Are hornets generally a dangerous species that should be eliminated from my property?

One note I'll add to confoud the issue is that I am simultaneously enjoying the presence of a feral colony of honeybees which resides a few hundred feet away from the nearest hornet nest. Do hornets commit significant predation on honeybees? Is this anything to worry about?

I want to give in to the strong male impulse to throw rocks at the big basketball sized nests... follow up with some BB gun fire and perhaps even some pyrotechnics. What's the right, responsible, environmentally friendly thing to do?

Here is a link that might be useful: Bald-Faced Hornets

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I had a BFH nest about 25' above my hot tub, but did a bit of research before panicking. They didn't bother me so I didn't bother them. And considering, for a while, the yellow jacket population dwindled, I had no logical reason to destroy them. The tree they were in had to be taken down; it was dying and infested with carpenter ants. DH was determined to take it down, nest and all. I begged and pleaded with him to leave the branch with the nest alone; that they would die when a frost came. Although they did get a bit pissed when he was taking down branches around the nest, they didn't go after him or sting him. I was amazed. Well, come October, we had one branch left, the one with the nest. After it frosted, he climbed up, cut the branch, and we lowered it into a large trash bag. The nest was inactive (luckily) and has been removed. Although the Queen leaves the nest anyway to overwinter, and the nest isn't reused, I really do miss them. The yellowjacket population on my deck is tremendous this year. And, even though I have seen a few BFH's in my front garden, they obviously have a nest somewhere up there, and I wish they would've picked a tree in the back yard.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2004 at 11:29AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

As long as they aren't right near pedestrian traffic or are nesting inside your house, wasps, hornets, yellow-jackets, and bees are mostly beneficial. They will pollinate, and control other insects in your garden. So if they aren't causing a problem, I'd leave them alone. I actually saw a yellow-jacket pulling a green caterpiller off a head of cabbage last week. Perhaps their large population this year can explain why I've seen very few pests in my garden (I don't use any chemicals for control.)

    Bookmark   August 10, 2004 at 12:46PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
TRLambert(4/5 Maine)

Ditto on Tarheit's comments. As long as they aren't in your way or pose a problem for others, let them be. They will do more to benefit you than to harm you.


    Bookmark   August 10, 2004 at 2:17PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Aegis(z9 CA)

I largely agree, but it sure is hard to yield to temptation.

I've got two beehives that are occasionally harrassed by yellowjackets. Mostly they take the defects that the workers throw out, but they also take returning field bees and generally get the hive worked up, which makes it a little tense to be around. Thus, I've started trying to control the yellowjackets. Dunno if bald faces will also go after bees.


    Bookmark   August 10, 2004 at 6:19PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
ccrb1(z5 IND)

Remembering that there are more deaths each year attributed to wasps and hornets than there are for honeybees, it's a tough decision that you need to carefully consider.

If it were rattlesnakes, what would you do?

    Bookmark   August 11, 2004 at 9:32AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

There is a big difference. Rattlesnake bites are toxic and potentially deadly without treatment to most people. Only very, very few people have severe alergies to stings where it could be life threatening. (And those people should limit their risk and carry an epi-pen). It is extremely rare that you would get enough stings to get a toxic dose from bees or hornets.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2004 at 1:40PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
ccrb1(z5 IND)

no, it's very true. However the majority of "bee sting" deaths are in fact yellow jackets. And it's not an allergy but a heart attack that takes the victim. It's a risk, and it's small. A nest in the woods is fine. But in some cases, it's worth removing the nest and reducing your risk and liability.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2004 at 12:22AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

True there is a risk and bees are often blamed for stings when they are usually not to blame. Though the statistics show you are much more likely to die falling down the stairs, or simply falling/tripping when standing or walking on a flat surface.

Everything has some risk, You'll have to decide what is an acceptable risk for you.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2004 at 12:46PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Yellow jackets, native to Europe, I believe, can be quite a nuisance in many ways. They also build very large nests. The ideas expressed of sparing the wasps is fine; however, I disagree when it comes to yellow jackets.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2004 at 8:39PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Ok, as the originator of this thread, I get to choose the winning argument. While a great case was made on both sides, my own experience will dictate my ruling.

After just a few weeks with the hornets we began to notice a lot more aggressive incidents. The family dog was stung without provocation underneath the host tree. Five family members reported being stung or "hit" (they would fly directly into you at full speed, clearly outside of established flight paths, but turn around and return to the nest without stinging and without further attack -- truly felt like a warning behavior) by hornets in an area of about 150 feet of the nest.

My additional observation was that the hornets appeared to be very sensitive to clothing color. White t-shirts seemed to draw a heightened response and my red ball cap drew the most response. Based on what I experienced, I would strongly advise against wearing red in the vicinity of hornets.

Whether it was the deterministic effect of redneck genes or a common sense approach to a hazardous situation, I eventually felt compelled to destroy them. The link below will demonstrate the method that was ultimately effective, here's the list of things that did not work:

Hornet Spray - Note the warning on the label. CAUTION! Never spray this or any other substance on a hornet nest or else they will come out and attack you. Hmmnnn... that's helpful.

Throwing rocks.
Throwing walnuts.
Throwing apples.
Throwing pears.

Hooking the tree with a hatchet tied to a string in a satisfying but completely ineffectual attempt to shake the nest loose.

Hooking the tree by drawing a rope line across the tree from two remoint points opposite the tree in hopes of shaking or scraping the hornets off of the tree.

Calling a professional exterminator and asking them not to use any chemicals that could be potentially harmful to our dogs.

Shooting the nest with bb's.
Shooting the nest with lead pellets.

So anyway, CCBR1, you're our grand prize winner. Congrats, you had me at "rattlesnake".


Here is a link that might be useful: How I Finally Rid Myself Without Getting Stung

    Bookmark   August 26, 2004 at 6:33PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
TRLambert(4/5 Maine)

And I thought I was crazy!

You don't fool around, do you! :-) Tim

    Bookmark   August 27, 2004 at 8:10AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I've heard a 12 gauge shotgun does a good job of removing a hornets nest?

    Bookmark   September 2, 2004 at 3:10PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
ccrb1(z5 IND)

I couldn't get to the photos. They're locked in asking for an aol userid.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2004 at 12:55AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
hemnancy(z8 PNW)

We had 2 hornet nests, one in my raspberries that made it about impossible to pick any, and the other hanging from a tree. We ended up getting rid of the first nest. The idea was to take a large pot of boiling water out at night and cut the raspberry cane so the nest would drop into the water. We were wearing lots of protection and put a light on a chair so we could see. The nest proved harder to detach than we thought but was partly submerged in the water when it became apparent some were escaping. I told my husband to run and backed away. Then I saw that they were going for the light and I was apparently invisible. We could have finished them off together but I finally just knocked the nest down and left as my husband didn't come back. The nest was subsequently abandoned. I do feel bad about it though as I have seen a marked decrease in codling moth damage in my apples and I attribute that to all the wasp species in my yard. I don't believe in removing any of them unless they are a direct hazard. But I hate the type of yellow jacket that hangs around at picnics trying to land on my pop or meat. That is not the kind of yellow jacket we have, with the narrow waist and paper nest. I leave them alone since they are good predators.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2005 at 12:41AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I missed this thread the first time around. For what it's worth, I almost always leave the nests alone. We've had some on low hanging branches that made it impossible to mow around, but there is always next year to mow. They are more interesting to watch than just about anything on television, so for us the small inconvience of avoiding a small area is worth it. Thankfully the ones we've had have been almost tame. And the small wasps that build a naked comb are allowed to build right over the front door. We've never been stung.

The reason for this post is the contention from ccrb1 that "it's not an allergy but a heart attack that takes the victim". I would like to know of the data behind that statement. In case somebody reads this and uses it for a reference, I would like to know how this statement squares with the facts.

Everything I have read says that anaphylactic shock is the main killer with insect stings. This refers to multiple organ failures from an allergic reaction. The most common allergic reaction is the swelling of the air passages. If this happens, other symptoms become secondary. The primary effect on the heart is angioedema, the swelling of the blood vessels going to the heart. This effect is generally secondary in nature, and the rapid heart beat is a symptom of this, usually non-fatal effect of envenomation. If somebody has data to suggest that heart attacks (whatever they are) are the most common fatal effect of stings, I would like to know so that I can learn more.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2005 at 12:42PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I did want to add that 3X as many people die from food allergies each year. No liability exists from any manufacturers assuming their product is labeled correctly. Liability from a wasp's nest is almost nil unless you have specifically invited somebody over, know they are allergic, and stirred up the hornets. Common law (basis of law in 49 states) holds that someone who 'drops by', no matter if friend, solicitor, or family, assumes responsibility for any dangers that exist. This does not mean any obviously defective things, attractive nuisances, and such things, but a hornet's nest is not "caused" by the resident.

If you invite your mom over and she slips on the ice, you pay (if she sues). If she decides to stop in without an invite on her way to the store and slips on the ice, too bad for her. And the old adage applies, anybody can sue anyone for anything anytime, collecting is another story.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2005 at 12:53PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I have a hornets nest in a root system. I was removing some pesty volunteer trees and bushes when we came across the nest in the roots. I want the roots out of there so I can plant some other stuff...I haven't seen anything about how to get them out of the roots....any advise???

    Bookmark   August 1, 2011 at 8:53PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I put out sugar water for the hummingbirds and as of last year it attracted "many" honey bees plus wasps. A bee keeper I spoke to said it was ok and wouldn't harm the honey bees so I did the same this year again and now I have the bald-faced hornets too.
I need pollinators for the vegetable garden but I have noticed that the bald-faced hornets seem to get 'drunk' or something on sugar water and start attacking each other. Like a brawl in a tavern.
So far they haven't stung me and I've found that I can keep them away from an area by putting a feeder where I prefer them to stay most of the time. It helps and so far this year I have lots of cucumbers and didn't have to hand pollinate them myself. Also it helps to do the sugar water feeders early in the morning before the hornets warm up and become active. You can sort of 'train' them to stay near their feeder and away from you. When the cucumbers began to blossom I moved the feeder closer to them and then got out of there!
Hope this helps someone else.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2013 at 12:12AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Had a yellow Jacket hive in my gutter that appeared in August, I decided to leave them be and by Mid September they had abandoned the hive due to the Cold Fall weather. No harm came to me or them.

    Bookmark   October 31, 2014 at 1:59AM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Bee Hive for Black Bees
We have a large bee hive that was created this summer...
how to get rid of 10000s ground yellow jackets on 400-500 holes
Many parts of my 1 acre highly wood area has 400-500...
bees, deter, Please need suggestions!
OK.. I need the experts. For the last 13 years, my...
Wasps Buzzing on my Conifers
I saw a lot of yellow wasps buzzing on the two conifer...
RedSun (Zone 6, NJ)
Will Rosemary attract bees?
I am planning a small bed at my daughter's school and...
Sponsored Products
FreeJack LED Small Nest Pendant
GG Collection Decorative Metal Pushpins
Classic Hostess
Nest Multicolor Rectangular: 2 Ft. 8 In. x 4 Ft. 8 In. Rug
$110.00 | Bellacor
Logico Micro Quadruple Nested Semi-Flushmount by Artemide
$1,575.00 | Lumens
Holly & Martin Ocelle 3-piece Nesting Table Set
Fresca Mezzo Black Modern Bathroom Vanity with Medicine Cabinet
Modern Bathroom
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™