Bug Week–Safely Removing A Hornet’s Nest

As I was drafting these posts, I found I had an opportunity to attempt to remove a hornet’s nest organically–or at least to demonstrate the technique here.  As you’ll see, nature sometimes has other ideas.

I was out watering on that really hot stretch last week and I noticed two things:

This was a rather large hole in the ground.  At first I thought something had been digging–but if you look closely you’ll see the bumble bee emerging–see the black and yellow stripes?  It’s an active bumble bees nest.  We’re not going to try to remove it.  The hole is quite large and easy to see.   We’ll just keep the dog (and ourselves and the mower) away until after a hard freeze.  We love our bees!

But this is another thing entirely and it’s very hard to see (at least for us–not so much for the hornets–see the one approaching the hole?):

Had I not been almost on top of it when I took the photo, you would not really be able to see it.  In fact, when I went out to place the clear bowl over the nest, I went out around 8 pm and waited almost 40 minutes, watching until I didn’t see any more hornets entering the nest.  I felt like Jack the Ripper, stalking my victims–but perish the thought that the Spoiler mows over this or the dog gets her snout into it.

So the organic way to avoid spraying this nest–and your land–full of poisonous chemicals is to place a clear bowl over the nest and suffocate the hive–gruesome, but usually effective.

Place the clear bowl over an active hive only after dark, when all the insects are likely to have returned to the nest.  Make sure the ground is level around the nest so that insects can’t escape out around the edges of the bowl.  The bowl needs to be clear so that the insects think they can fly out of the nest.  If it is opaque or colored, they will tunnel their way out of their nest somewhere else.

This is a rather gruesome way to kill off the hive because it takes a couple of days for the hornets (in my case) to die but to me it seems a far better thing than poisoning the earth with lots of toxic chemicals.  Once I am sure everyone was dead, I just place a rock over the hole, sealing up the hole.  Works like a charm–usually.

This is what the bowl looked like in place the next day.

Another possibility if you have skunks nearby is that they occasionally will dig out hornets nests from the ground but only if there are honeycombs inside.  So you see, skunks are useful as well.  In a wildlife garden, everything has a purpose.

And in my case, this is what happened–sort of.  On Monday, I looked out and saw my bowl up-ended.  I was horrified at the thought that children might have come into the yard exploring but when I went over to look, this is what I saw.

It looks as if a skunk had been exploring instead (thank goodness.)  Unfortunately, I now have the worst of two worlds–a much larger hornet’s nest opening and no dead hornets.  Back to square one.  I just hope my bowl is big enough!

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