Removing a Wasp/Hornet Nest and Harvesting the Nest

Now that is cool!

A friend in my ward has an apartment that she rents, and she had a hornet nest growing in the carport. Pretty good size, too. She asked my help to remove it, and I of course volunteered. My first thought was to spray it with one of those high-powered jet sprays that kills and destroys the nest, but then I thought how cool that would be to actually capture the nest itself intact and preserve it.

I spent most of the afternoon plotting my attack, and late last night (10:00 PM when the hornets would be home), we went over to the house for the attack.

Here’s what the nest looked like:

That’s about six inches across, and yes, it’s covered in hornets (at least I think they are hornets… not my area of expertise).

My first thought, and yours too if you zoom in, was to think “what the crap am I doing?”:-) I donned my suit–gloves too–and set up my ladder. Unfortunately, my camera died immediately.😦

I started by coating the outer shell, which is a very thin and flimsy paper, with RAID. The hornets on the outside fell to the ground almost immediately, and I sat back stunned as I watched literally hundreds of hornets pour out of the entrance hole. Most were in some stage of death, so they fell to the ground. I’d guess there were 300 to 400 hornets total.

I waited about ten minutes, spraying every now and then to make sure the poison was getting deep into the nest. Then when the trickle of dying hornets dropped to a handful or so, I climbed back up and cut the nest down from the ceiling using a stick. The paper covering is, of course, worthless for supporting anything and crumbled almost immediately, so I pulled that off exposing the core of the nest. It took another 10 minutes to kill off everything on the ground, wrap the core in plastic, and sweep up the small pile of hornet bodies.

When I got home, Courtney barely refused to let me inside. After convincing her it was safe, we took our first look at the nest. Courtney nearly died to discover there were still a handful (five) hornets in some stage of dying. I slowly captured and killed each one (she still thinks I’m insane).

Here’s the photos after changing the battery in the camera….

Some of the struggling hornets…. Anyone care to venture a guess on the species? I’m sure they are not wasps, but I don’t know the difference between most hornets and yellow jackets.

Here’s an amazing shot. You can clearly see brood (the lighter colored cells around the top ring. In the very top, you can see what I’m guessing are exposed pupae. On the very bottom ring, you can see a host of larva. Most of the pupae were very squirmy as were some of the larva. Courtney, of course, is sitting back horrified by this whole experience. I’m not sure if she’s ever going to recover. Me? I’m about as giddy as they come.:-)

If you zoom in and look along the bottom edge of the photo, you can clearly see baby hornets getting close to hatching (which is why you freeze it). Can you imagine Courtney’s response to see those hatch? It’s not so much a question of if I’d sleep on the couch, but how long.

From the plastic bag onto a lid for freezing. The nest core at this point is probably four inches across and about the same high. On a side note, the tile in the background is the tile that we’re going to use to make the hearth for our new wood stove to be installed in November.

And into the freezer to kill everything that’s still alive. That’s a good side view that exposes the layers of the nest. The nest is currently sitting upside down, and it’s constructed around a solid central core from which extend the cells in which the brood are raised. You can clearly see the four layers of this nest.

And that’s it. I’ve been debating what to do with it. Part of me wants to keep it (cue Courtney’s death scream), part of me wants to donate it to Katherine’s school (it’ll get ruined), but as I thought about it, it seems a perfect gift for my fellow beekeeping friend and mentor Aleisha. She teaches science in a Junior High School, and I know she’ll treasure it and put it to incredible use. Plus, maybe this can be the token down payment for all the help she’s given me during this critical first year of beekeeping.

Aleisha–When next we see you, drop by and pick up your hornet nest! You’ve earned it. Oh, and hurry…. Courtney’s dying with it in the house.

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8 Responses to Removing a Wasp/Hornet Nest and Harvesting the Nest

  1. mom says:

    Dave, it looks like our neighbors house has a hive growing inside an exterior wall. We’ve seen ALOT of bees entering & exiting a hole in the brick. Are you interested in seeing/learning more about it? -David

  2. What he failed to mention was when he came home, he knocked on the door instead of just coming in. So I looked out the window to see what was going on and saw him standing there shaking hornets out of this plastic garbage bag…and they… were still moving….

    Then he came into the kitchen and opened up the bag and there were MORE hornets moving around in the bag, one of which was quite active and kinda PO’ed looking. (He squished it with a fork.*shudder*)

    Not to mention the squirmy larva….and I’m gonna stop now…….AAARRGH!!!

  3. OH YAY! i love presents like that! we should do the exchange–extractor for nest! do you want to extractor tomorrow/friday/august 27?
    aleisha

  4. JeffreyD says:

    That is a yellow jacket nest, the same kind that lived in our crawl space. I still wonder how big that nest must have been.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yellowjacket

    Be glad you didn’t get stung. I think wasp stings hurt more than bee stings.

    Now imagine how cool it would have been to freeze the entire nest with all the wasps intact! Then, cut open one side and see how they cram themselves in.

  5. daveloveless says:

    Thanks, Jeff. I knew it was one or the other, but couldn’t figure out which. And the articles are cool for other readers.

    Thanks, Alaeisha. Trav and I have the exchange set for tomorrow. We’ll do a bit of extracting on Saturday. So excited….

  6. James says:

    Too bad you soaked it with raid.

  7. Deb. says:

    Hi. Love your articLE – In a friends yard, their is the most beautiful hornets nest – So very impressive…I would like to keep the nest intact – minus the hornets.
    How?????
    Thank you.
    Deb.

    • daveloveless says:

      Do you live somewhere with cold winters? Hornet nests are typically single-year nests, meaning they are abandoned in the winter. I think after a single cold snap (hard freeze?), you should be able to harvest it without a problem. I think they are incredibly beautiful when they are fully preserved like that, and I’d be jealous if you managed to get it!

      Good luck!

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