Hornets and wasps are commonly thought to be one and the same, with many people using the two interchangeably to describe any small stinging insect that’s not a bumblebee. While hornets are a type of wasp, we typically use wasps to refer to paper wasps and yellow jackets.

One way to tell the difference between the two is to look at the type of nest they build on your property. Learn about the difference between hornet and wasp nests and what to do if you spot one near your home.

Hornet or. Wasp Nest: Key Differences


Both nests are very similar in that Pennsylvania wasps tend to build their nests using chewed wood, which gives them their distinct, thin, papery look. While you may not notice a wasp nest until it is fully formed, these nests actually take several months to build and continue construction as the colony grows. Hornets also construct their nests using chewed wood and saliva and can take months to complete, similar to a wasp nest.


While the location of a hornet nest depends on the species of hornet, they typically prefer to build their nests in covered areas such as tree branches, shrubs, attics, and crawl spaces. Wasps, on the other hand, tend to build their nests under eaves of roofs, wall cavities, and garages. You can easily track down the location of a wasp nest by observing the flight of the wasps on your property.


Unlike bee hives, wasp nests are on the smaller side and typically start out the size of a gold ball at the beginning of the season. As time passes, the queen wasp will build the nest until it gets larger, typically the size of a basketball. Hornet nests are much bigger than wasp nests and can vary in size anywhere from the size of a basketball to much larger, which is why it is important to reach out to a pest control company to take down a nest.

How Dangerous Are Hornets and Wasps?

Hornets and wasps are some of the more dangerous stinging insects, as they will often attack in large groups and sting repeatedly. Not only are insect bites painful, but they may cause allergic reactions, which can be life-threatening.

If you spot a hornet or wasp nest, your best bet is to stay away from it and never try to remove it yourself. Doing so can antagonize the insects and result in painful and life-threatening stings.

What to Do When You Spot a Stinging Insect’s Nest

1. Identify the Nest

Understanding how to identify different types of stinging insect nests is crucial in approaching the problem. Hornet nests are much larger than wasp nests and are typically found in trees, with a paper mache appearance. Wasp nests, on the other hand, are smaller have a thin, gray appearance, and can resemble an upside-down umbrella. If you observe a wasp nest long enough, you may see some of the insects coming and going from the nest.

2. Prepare a Pesticide for Home Treatment

You can prepare several home remedies to take down a hornet or wasp nest, the most common being a mixture of dish soap and water. When you spray the solution on the nest, it will clog the insects’ pores and should kill them instantly. However, while it may be tempting to take matters into your own hands when trying to get rid of a nest, it is always best to seek the help of a pest control company to safely remove the nest without putting yourself in danger.

3. Wear Protective Clothing

If you do decide to handle a hornet or wasp nest yourself, you must wear protective clothing to reduce your chances of being stung. If you don’t have access to a proper beekeeping outfit, wearing thick, loose-fitting clothing is your best bet. Although hornets and wasps can sting through your clothes, you can lessen your chances of being stung by wearing loose items rather than tight-fitting or thin pieces of clothing.

4. Apply Treatment at Night

Hornets and wasps are less active at night, making this the ideal time to apply your treatment. Still, you should practice extreme caution and take all of the necessary measures to avoid getting stung, such as wearing thick, loose-fitting clothing and protecting your hands and face before getting close to a nest.

5. Call an Exterminator

As mentioned earlier, it is always advisable to contact a pest control professional rather than attempting to deal with a hornet or wasp nest on your own. A trusted pest control company will be able to determine what kind of stinging insect you’re dealing with and come up with a plan to safely remove the nest without harming you or your loved ones.


What happens if you disturb a hornet nest?

Hornets are some of the most aggressive creatures, meaning a disturbance could result in a sting. Therefore, it’s always best to contact a professional if you’re dealing with a hornet’s nest.

When is the best time of day to get rid of a hornet’s nest?

The best time of day to knock down a hornet’s nest is at night when hornets sleep. This gives you the lowest chance of being stung.

Does the gasoline trick work on wasps?

While the viral TikTok trend has worked for many people, it is considered very dangerous and not advised by professionals. In theory, the gasoline knocks out wasps with its fumes, but misapplying the cup to the nest could result in some angry, stinging insects.


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