The art of skillfully handling a hornet's nest

The art of skillfully handling a hornet's nest

the essentials in brief

  • Hornets are threatened with extinction and are under protection
  • Hornet nests may only be removed with permission
  • Hornet nests should only be removed by a professional

What can be done against annoying hornets?

If the hornets in your living area are really bothering you, you should use gentle defense methods. Aggressive mallet methods are generally out of place with potentially dangerous and not-so-easy-to-direct animals. Unfortunately, a certain degree of tolerance is always required. The art of correct hornet defense is therefore a tightrope walk between caution and forbearance. Justifiable and nevertheless reasonably effective measures include the following:

  • Cordon off the area around the hornet's nest
  • Counteract with smells
  • Have the nest professionally relocated

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If you can somehow do without the area around the hornet's nest for a while, simply seal it off with tape or other material. In this way you prevent visitors, children and yourself from carelessly getting into the immediate vicinity of the nest. That can really promote a peaceful coexistence.

With certain smells you cannot drive hornets out of an established nest, but you can prevent them from building a nest. In places that hornets might consider suitable for their habitation and breeding site, it can be worthwhile to bring out certain smells. What the animals are sensitive to are the ethereal and citrus scents of lemons, lavender or cloves, as well as garlic or hairspray.

The safest method is to have a professional move the nest. We want to go into this in more detail in the following section.

Remove hornet's nest

Legal restrictions

Why it is so important to precisely identify the wasp species before attempting to combat a nest has to do with animal welfare law. Because anyone who feels disturbed or threatened by the insects is not always allowed to take action against them as they see fit. This is especially true for hornets. Because as an endangered species enjoy special protection under the Federal Nature Conservation Act, according to which catching, impairing or killing the animals is subject to severe punishment. A violation can result in huge fines in the five-digit range.

The species protection restriction is, however, provided with the additional note “without a reasonable reason”. A somewhat vague expression, however, it must always be judged in the individual case whether such a reasonable reason is present. What often speaks in favor of removing a hornet's nest are small children living in the household or those with an insect venom allergy. In such cases, professional removal or relocation of the nest may be permitted by the local conservation agency.

However, if the threat is not really acute, you should always try to come to terms with the hornet's nest first. Generally speaking, these are peaceful animals that only sting when they feel threatened. Also, unlike Germans and Common Wasps, they aren't as offensive about our outdoor meals. The lifespan of a hornet colony is also limited: the cycles are annual and the activity of the animals is limited to the summer months. So you can always keep in mind that the stress will soon stop by itself anyway.

hornet's nest

The professional resettlement or removal

Before you initiate a nest removal, you must take the following steps:

  • Obtain approval from the local nature conservation authority
  • Hire a specialist (not the fire brigade)
  • Calculate costs

You should always have a hornet's nest removed by specialists. Because handling the large biting insects safely requires a lot of experience. Anyone who tries to relocate on their own is exposing themselves to an unpredictable danger and in self-defense mode can still violate species protection laws.

The relocation of a hornet's nest can, for example, be carried out by a beekeeper or an employee of a nature conservation association. The fire brigade has not been responsible for removing insect nests for some time.

At best, the relocation takes place in a phase in which the animals are in rest mode anyway. The daily rest phases or cold periods in summer are favorable.

The animals are then put into a state of twilight using an animal-friendly agent so that they and the resettling professional do not come under unnecessary stress. Then the nest is carefully removed from its niche, put in a container and rebuilt at least 3 to 4 kilometers away. From this distance, the animals can no longer find their way back to their original place of activity.


Of course, the whole thing isn't free. How much money you have to invest in professional hornet nest removal varies. Any resettlement measure depends on a number of situational factors. These include, for example:

  • Size of the nest
  • Accessibility of the nesting site
  • Effort to remove without damage
  • Expenditure of time

If the hornet's nest is in a hard-to-reach place, for example in a cavity in the roof or in the roller shutter box, it can take a lot of time to gain access to it. The way in which the hornets have attached their housing can also make the professional sweat. Depending on how big the nest is, more anesthetics will be needed.

All of these factors can increase the service life and thus the costs. You can expect around 100 euros if you hire someone from a nature conservation organization, private experts are a bit more expensive at around 150 to 350 euros . If you rent, you can get away with it for free: the cost of removing insect nests is usually borne by the landlord. However, a hornet settlement is not a reason for a rent reduction. Preceding incidents with wasp nests have shown that the settlement of insect nests in dishes is classified as a natural, acceptable condition.

Remove the empty hornet nest

hornet's nest

The hornet state dissolves in autumn. The majority of the members, i.e. the workers and the drones, have now done their job and simply die according to the sober laws of nature. Only the fertilized young queens who are responsible for the conservation of the species live on and hibernate. To do this, they individually look for a protected place, such as underground caves or crevices in dead wood, where they fall into a freeze. So the nest is orphaned towards winter.

You do not have to fear that the young queens will settle their own new state in the old nest structure after wintering. Every queen also starts building her own nest in the spring to establish her own state, usually in a different location.

Nevertheless, the abandoned nest can of course disturb. Reasons for having to remove an old hornet's nest are as follows:

  • Elements in the house are impaired (for example the roller shutter if it is in the roller shutter box)
  • Resulting stench
  • Prevention of other animals settling in the nest

Impairment of residential elements

If you keep bumping your head on the old hornet's nest in the attic or in the garden shed, then of course it makes sense to remove it. Functional elements in the house can also be impaired by the nest and make removal necessary. The classic is, for example, a nest in the roller shutter box that blocks the roller shutter. If you can do without lowering the roller shutter during the summer, you should do so and only remove the nest after the orphanage. This saves you and the animals from unpleasant collisions.

Resulting stench

The stench that arises can also urge you to remove the orphaned nest. Especially in the final stages, a hornet's nest can develop an unpleasant, sweet, pungent odor - this is due to the cloaca through which the animals drop their excrement and underdeveloped, dead larvae. There the material rots and begins to stink. Not a nice thing when the nest is in or around the house. If the stench gets too unbearable while the nest is still inhabited, you can make do with laying out newspaper or crepe paper under the nest and replacing it again and again.

When the hornet's nest is repopulated

The hornets themselves no longer move into their old habitation, but they are happy to accept other small animals as shelter. You should remove the nest in winter so that you do not soon have new crawling and dirt-making lodgers when the hatchery is orphaned.

Other handling of hornets

If you can somehow endure the hornets in the garden shed (7.70 € at Amazon *) in the attic or in the tree, you should refrain from fighting them as much as possible. Because this may only cause you and the animals more stress and discomfort.

An inner attitude in which one regards the settlement of animals as a completely natural occurrence can make a big difference. It is helpful to consider the positive and beneficial properties of hornets. Because they have some of them:

  • Decimate insect pests
  • Stay away from our garden tables
  • Are an important link in the ecosystem
  • Are a rarity

Decimation of insect pests

Hornets feed a lot of insects to their larvae that affect garden culture or our well-being - such as mosquitoes, caterpillars of moths, beetles, flies and other wasps.

hornet's nest

Stay away from our garden tables

It is very pleasant that they are not interested in cakes, ice cream, cold cuts and open jam jars on our garden tables. In general, they behave much more cautiously than German and common wasps (which are known to most as typical wasps because of their offensive nature). If they are not disturbed or harassed, they are even extremely peaceful, almost even tame!

Important role in the ecosystem

Of course, hornets also play an essential role in the overall ecological balance. Through their hunting activities they contribute to the balance of the species and their role as pollinators should not be underestimated. After all, insects only hunt hornets for their larvae, which need protein-rich food to grow up. The adult animals, on the other hand, have a vegetarian diet: pollen, honeydew and carbohydrate-rich vegetable juices.

Hornets are rare

It is not for nothing that hornets enjoy special protection under the Federal Nature Conservation Act. Their species has been in decline for some time - an alarming situation given the general decline in species. Because of the lack of suitable habitat, hornets are increasingly dependent on places of refuge close to people. So consider yourself lucky when hornets seek asylum from you! With them you get rare and therefore valuable sub-tenants that are worthy of protection and are a sign of hope for the regenerative inventory.

“Hornets are threatened with extinction in many regions of Central Europe.”

What to avoid when handling hornets

We now know why hornets are so worth protecting. In order to put into practice the necessary respectful interaction with them, you should know what to avoid when dealing with them. The NoGos not only serve the safety of the animals, but of course also your own.

Hornets are not aggressive when it comes to protecting their nests, but they can be defensive. Some things that arouse hornets needlessly include:

  • Noise near the nest
  • Violent, hectic movements near the nest

Noise can annoy not only human, but also animal neighbors. Hornets are actually quite irritable in this regard. Loud engine noise from equipment used in the house or in the garden, such as lawn mowers, chainsaws or drills, can seriously disturb the hornets.

But also noises produced specifically to drive them away, such as knocking on the roof of nests in the roof structure, the animals consider an attack - which is actually correct. With such activities you can literally set the large insects on yourself. In addition - we remember - not only catching and killing, but also willful impairment fall under the actions prohibited by species protection law.

You should also avoid violent movements in the immediate vicinity of the nest. Because that too can put the hornets in defense and attack mode. In this they do not differ from other social wasps.


How is a hornet's nest made?

In general, all true wasps build their nests in a similar way. The architecture of the buildings also resembles the hives of bees: in principle, honeycomb-shaped chambers form the core of the nest, which is protected by an outer shell. This creates a more or less spherical structure. The honeycombs serve as brood cells for the larvae.

Like other real wasps, hornet queens start building their nests with the creation of the first honeycomb chambers in which they lay their first eggs. The brood cells are oriented vertically hanging down. Hornets use wood fibers as material, which they gnaw from rotten branches or wood infected with white or brown rot, chew and mix with their saliva to make a tough pulp. As a result, the finished structure later appears very paper-like.

While the first larvae develop, the hornet queen is already building the outer shell. For this she uses the same wood and saliva pulp as for the brood cells. The protective cover is made up of hollow pockets - so hornets intuitively understand the principle of air insulation. The inside of the nest is effectively protected from strong temperature fluctuations by the enclosed air layers.


As soon as the first workers have hatched, the nest building work for the queen is complete. The workers are now responsible for the continuation of the construction work, while the queen now concentrates exclusively on laying eggs. The workers pick up where the queen left off and continue according to the same principle: more and more brood chambers are placed one below the other in horizontal plates and the outer shell is continued accordingly.

In the end, a hornet's nest can reach 60 cm in diameter, which is smaller than the largest nests of German or common wasps. A hornet state only counts around 400 to 700 animals, while colonies of Germans or common wasps can comprise up to 7000 individuals.

Hornets versus Germans and Common Wasps

If you are dealing with a balloon-like nest that appears to be made of paper, it is almost certainly a nest of real wasps. Both the animals of this subfamily and the species-specific nests differ in only relatively fine details. The differentiation, however, is anything but insignificant - because if the wasps disturb you and you want to do something against them, you have to observe animal welfare restrictions.

Recognize hornet's nest

You can tell by certain characteristics whether you are standing in front of a hornet's nest or a wasp's nest of another species. If you collect as many impressions as possible, you can arrive at a relatively certain diagnosis. Here is a brief overview of the identifying features of the animals to be observed and the nests:

HornetsGerman / Common Wasps
Identifying features of the animalsLarger body shape: workers 18 to 25 mm long, drones 21 to 28 mm long, queens 23 to 35 mm longSmaller body shape: workers 11 to 16 mm long, drones 13 to 17 mm long, queens up to 20 mm long
Coloring: middle trunk segment black to brown or brick red without yellow elements, only the abdomen shows characteristic black and yellow markingsColoring: completely black and yellow (warning) drawing
Recognition features of the nestsSlightly smaller size (because of the smaller size of the state): a maximum of up to 60 cm in length, puttied-looking, light brown shell around horizontally arranged honeycomb plates, lower opening that serves for excretionsRather grayish, rounded nests up to football size
Location: especially rain-protected areas in and around the house, in garden sheds, in the forks of treesPrefers dark, protected areas in and around the house or in garden sheds, but occasionally also in the ground!
Noises: Humming even at night because hornets are nocturnal, during the day scratching and clattering of begging larvae and incoming and outgoing workersHum and larval noises only during the day

At first glance, you can recognize a hornet's nest or wasp's nest primarily by its size and color. If it is on the small side, despite relatively large animals flying in and out, you are probably dealing with a hornet colony. Nocturnal hum is also a clear sign that it is a hornet's nest.


Wasps in the earth

If you have a state of yellow-striped biting insects residing in the garden soil, you can rule out the possibility that they are hornets. They only nest above ground, preferably at higher altitudes.

Only common and German wasps occasionally settle in underground nesting sites, for example in abandoned mice or mole burrows. Apart from that, of course, there are also numerous other species of folded wasps, which, however, differ from hornets, Germans and common wasps externally due to their smaller size and different color. In addition, most of them live solitary, so not in large associations of states, but alone with their brood.

frequently asked Questions

Do certain home remedies help against hornets?

Home remedies, which are often touted, usually help little or no help at all. Certain smells can irritate the animals minimally, but they cannot drive away an established colony. Some home remedy barriers are actually nothing more than superstition, such as coffee or copper coins. The method used by hornets 'nest dummies, who are supposed to exploit the animals' territorial behavior, is also doubtful: by simulating a strange nest, flying animals are to be made to flee. However, much practical experience shows that this method is not effective.

Can you remove a hornet's nest yourself?

You can of course remove an abandoned hornet's nest. That is their right. But what you should never do is destroy an inhabited nest on your own, for example by flushing it out or fumigating it. In doing so, you not only violate the species protection law, but also endanger yourself to a high degree.

Are hornets particularly dangerous?

Probably because of their size, the hornets still have a reputation for being particularly dangerous. Their sting venom is no more toxic than that of other wasps or bees and does not cause any exceptionally strong reactions, except in those who are allergic to insect venom and children. Due to a different composition of the hornet sting poison and the generally smaller amount injected, hornet stings are even smaller and associated with less swelling than stings from other wasps or bees.