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Controlling Flying Insects—Wasps, Hornets and Yellow Jackets

Learn the differences between flying-insect pests like wasps and hornets, how to determine if they’re a threat, how best to remove them and the ideal product for the job.

August 25, 2023

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Wasps—which include both hornets and yellow jackets—are predatory insects that feed on a variety of insects and other arthropods. They play a crucial role in controlling pest populations in their respective habitats.

Additionally, they can be beneficial pollinators, aiding in the reproduction of flowering plants. But, when nests get too close to human activity, they need to be removed.

Differences Between Hornets and Wasps:

Appearance: Hornets are typically larger than most wasps, and have larger heads and rounder abdomens vs. the thinner waists of most wasp species.

Nesting: While hornets build aerial nests in trees or elevated locations. Their building material is a papery substance created by chewing wood. Though wasps can also construct aerial nests, those nests can also be on the ground—and made of a saliva/wood fiber mixture.

Social Structure: As social insects that live in hierarchical colonies, hornets have queens that lay eggs, workers that gather food and do nest maintenance, and male drones.

Wasps may be solitary or social. Like hornets, when wasps (which include yellow jackets) are social, they also create colonies with queens, workers, and drones.

Stingers: While both hornets and wasps, when provoked, can inflict painful stings, hornet stings are considered more painful and their venom is more powerful than wasps. Both can sting repeatedly, though hornets are more likely to do so.

When Nests Get Too Close:

Tips for Wasp and Hornet Nest Removal

  • As a rule, wasps and hornets don’t attack humans unless provoked. But, if a wasps’ or hornets’ nest is next to—or attached to—human dwellings, interactions with humans increase, along with the likelihood of stings, and those nests should be removed.
  • While wasps (especially paper wasps) aren’t naturally aggressive unless disturbed, hornets are more aggressive, and can be dangerous when their nest is threatened.
  • Wasp/hornet nest removal is best done at night or early morning—when insects are less active, and more likely to be in the nest. Because wasps are generally less aggressive than hornets, wasp nests can often be removed during the day.
  • Paper wasps generally build paper-like, umbrella-shaped nests in protected locations—under eaves, gutters and ledges, or in attics, barns or sheds.
  • Bald-faced hornets, a common variety, build large gray nests that look like a swollen football, and are usually attached to a tree (often hidden among branches or dense canopies), bush or the side of a building.
  • When removing nests, wear protective clothing—long-sleeve shirts and long pants, and with socks pulled up over pant-leg bottoms.
  • Use a spray insecticide like LESCO Aerosol Wasp and Hornet Spray Plus, which emits a stream that is effective at up to 20 feet. Do not stand directly under nest while spraying—in the direct path of insects fleeing the nest.
  • Stand a safe distance away from nest, hold can upright, point toward the nest with wind at your back, and spray until nest is thoroughly saturated to completely kill the nest. Wait at least 24 hours before removing the nest.
  • If you can put off removing a nest until the onset of freezing temperatures (the mid-to-upper 20°s F), the cold will kill all of the workers as well as the queen.
  • If nests are not in an area of heavy human activity, or high up in trees, such nests can typically be safely ignored. Honeybees and bumble bees are far less aggressive than wasps and hornets, and, whenever possible, their nests should be preserved.

Quick Facts: LESCO Aerosol Wasp and Hornet Spray Plus

  • Use product to kill wasps, hornets, yellow jackets, and bees, on contact, and under eaves, screens, window frames, doors, patios, cracks, holes or crevices.
  • Sprays up to 20 feet
  • Product kills returning insects with residual action.
  • Can be used both indoors (in attics and indoor nest sites) and outdoors
  • Contains no CFCs or other ozone depleting substances

Call your local SiteOne branch with any questions about wasp and hornet control, and check out LESCO Aerosol Wasp and Hornet Spray Plus on

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