hornets in food garden

Asked June 25, 2016, 2:13 PM EDT

What is the safest way to remove hornets without chemicals to preserve the edible garden?

Montgomery County Virginia

3 Responses

Where are the hornets, in the ground or a tree or some other place? Are they in a nest with a lot of them present or in multiple small holes in the ground? Some of them are not especially harmful or dangerous and others definitely need to be removed from areas where people may be harmed. (Please use the reply feature within this email to respond so your answers will come directly to me.)

There are baits and lures that can be used where chemical control is undesirable. The information on baits and lures on page 6-4 in the section on yellow jackets (the most common underground nesting hornets) of this publication from Virginia Tech gives advice on their use. Other solutions are covered but most of the chemicals are not registered for use in a vegetable garden. If you chose to use a chemical, be sure to read the label carefully to see if it can be used around vegetables.

These yellow jackets are nesting on the underside of a horizontal fence component, as well as in a raspberry bush nearby. There is abundant activity around both nests at this point, and 3-out-of-4 of our family have been stung without provocation thus far. We have decided to use Drione powder (reported to be relatively safe and natural) to dust the nests this year and avoid harvesting any more of the berries until next year. I'll use face & body protection, as well as dust them after the sun goes down. Any further advice?

Yellow jackets do not nest above ground. What you have sounds more like paper wasps. An image of the wasps and their nest can be found at this site. The other possibility is a paper hornet (baldfaced hornet) nest which can be seen here. Both of these are rather aggressive around their nests. If either looks like what you have, let me know and I'll send additional information on control. In the meantime, your solution is appropriate.