Safe Control of Wasp Nests

- Use aerosol insecticides made for this purpose -

Summary: Most yellowjacket wasp nests can be left alone as long as they are not located where the nest can be accidentally bumped or stepped on. If treatment of a threatening is needed, however, use the methods outlined below for both aerial (above ground) and ground nests (below ground).

Jack DeAngelis, PhD
OSU Ext. Entomologist (ret.)

Aerial vs. ground nests

Yellowjacket wasp nests are built either above ground (aerial nests; right) or below ground (so called ground nests). Ground nests have a hole at the soil surface through which wasps enter and exit. For large nests this hole can be 2 inches (5 cm) in diameter. Aerial nests have a single entrance/exit hole usually near the lower apex of the papery nest (see photo right).

If either type of nest is built near human activity it may become threatening especially towards the end of summer. Aerial nests can be accidentally bumped and ground nests can be stepped on. Either case can result in swarming behavior and wasp attack. Threatening nests can be safely destroyed but keep in mind that most yellowjacket wasps are actually beneficial. These wasps prey on garden pests so only destroy nests that are actually threatening.

Do not treat wasp nests with gasoline or other flammable liquid. These liquids are both dangerous and illegal when used this way. Use the suggestions below instead.

large yellowjacket wasp nest

A large aerial yellowjacket wasp nest.

Ground wasp nests

You'll probably discover ground nests in late summer by the wasp activity around the entrance hole. Hopefully you'll notice the opening before you step on it! Use a "jet"-type aerosol spray to treat nests. These products propel a narrow stream of insecticide so you can stand off a safe distance while treating the nest opening. They are generally available at home and garden stores but for more information about one such aerosol product see, our affiliate.

Always a approach the nest entrance carefully, stay back ten feet or more. In the evening, just before dusk, spray the entrance with about 1/2 can of the aerosol insecticide then cover the opening with dirt or a rock to seal it.

Be cautious around the area of the nest for the next few days because on occasion the first attempt will fail and a new entrance hole will be opened. Repeat above procedure if this occurs.

Aerial wasp nests

Aerial nests, like the photo above, are normally easier to find but can be more difficult to control especially if located high above ground level. The same type of aerosol insecticide can be used on aerial nests but be very careful if the application requires climbing a ladder. Spray the area of the nest around, and into, the entrance hole. As with ground nests do this application in the evening. Remember, most yellowjacket nests are vacated by late fall so there is no need to destroy nests after the weather cools off in early fall.

Related Articles

What are Yellowjacket Wasps?

How to Use Wasp Traps

How Do Wasps Sting?

Which Wasps are Dangerous Scavengers?

How are Paper Wasps Different From Yellowjackets?

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