We've just noticed a large (2.5 ft?) hornets' nest hanging in a tree in our...

Asked September 4, 2013, 9:23 AM EDT

We've just noticed a large (2.5 ft?) hornets' nest hanging in a tree in our yard. Hornets are flying in and out of it. Neighborhood kids play in our yard a lot, shoot things up in the air. When would be the best time to get the hornets' nest out of the tree? and how best to do it?

Baltimore Maryland

3 Responses

If you have just noticed the nest and the children have been playing there all summer, you need not take any action other than admonishing the children to avoid throwing things at the nest. Only the queen(s) will survive the winter and she (or they) will overwinter in a sheltered location and establish a new nest and a new colony next spring. After the first hard frost, the nest will be empty and will never be re-occupied. Some people collect vacant hornet nests. If you would like to educate the children further, you could arrange for someone to retrieve the nest this winter and carefully cut it into two halves. The interior is intricately beautiful.
Assuming it is a European hornet nest, these insects are excellent predators of other insects. They are unusual in that they will fly and hunt both day and night. They are especially attracted to porch lights where they prey on moths. They are not aggressive unless disturbed. So, if the nest is high in the tree, simply wait till frost. If you consider it to be a serious threat, we can help you find a beekeeper who will be willing to remove the nest.

First of all, thank you so much! What a thorough and clear and interesting answer! The nest is pretty high up and though I'd love to take it down and dissect it, I'm not sure I'll be able to. Are you sure that if I just leave it there, the hornets won't move back in next spring?

The kids have already been warned about aiming balls and rockets away from the nest.

It looks very much like the picture below -- is that a European hornets' nest? I worry because I've read about very aggressive hornets. And maybe about some aggressive hornets remaining in the nest after the queen dies so that when (if) we take it down, somebody gets stung.

The picture you sent appears to be the nest and residents of the Bald Faced Hornet which is not actually a hornet. They are aerial yellowjackets but have a very different appearance. They have a thick body structure and are smaller than the European Hornet. These insects also live in our area. They can be a little more aggressive, but the same principle applies. "Live and let live". Almost all wild wasps, hornets, bees, etc. suffer the same fate. The queen survives and establishes a new colony the following spring. I am attaching a couple of documents for your edification: