How to identify wasp nests by species

Updated July 20, 2017

Generally, wasps begin to shed wood from trees to build their nests and begin actively constructing in May. Paper wasps, yellow jackets and boldfaced hornets create their nests by chewing wood and mixing it with their saliva. These nests are generally built in garages, attics, in between roof beams, in tree branches and in shrubs. Wasp species can nest in cone-shaped nests, umbrella-shaped, exposed cone nests and in abandoned rodent holes in the ground.

Search for nests that are cone-shaped and hang from branches, rafters of buildings or are situated in the corners of buildings. Both wasp species construct tiers of combs, then construct a protective film made of shredded wood and saliva around them creating the cone shape.

Look for umbrella-shaped nests with small comb holes. These are paper wasp nests, and unlike bold faced hornets and yellow jackets who also construct combs, paper wasps do not cover theirs with layers of shredded wood and saliva. They are bare and open.

Identify nests that are built into rodent holes in the ground. These will be yellow jacket nests, as this wasp species decides to nest in the ground occasionally.

Follow individual wasps you spot around your property back to their nest to get a better idea of what their habitat looks like.


Control or remove wasp nests at night as they are more docile and less active. Wasps do not swarm; bees do, so if you see a swarm, it is bees. June is the best time to control wasp nests because the queen has already formed the colony and it is still small.


Take caution when approaching wasp nests to spray or remove them. Always have a place to run for retreat. Close the windows in your home if the wasp nest is near the house before going tor remove or spray it. If the wasps come after you, you will not want windows to be ajar for them to enter and further chase you.

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About the Author

Based in Providence, R.I., Myles Ellison has been writing professionally since 2007. He has published work in the "MCLA Beacon" and "Tourism Review International." In 2010, Ellison began profiling small-business owners while working on a street revitalization project. He graduated from the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts with a B.A. in interdisciplinary studies, concentrating in English, journalism and anthropology.