Wasp Nest: Pictures, Identification & Facts

Common wasps such as yellow jackets, hornets, and paper wasps all build nests. These honeycomb-like nests are seen in different sizes and various locations.

The 3 main types of wasp nests are umbrella-shaped (under overhanging), soccer ball-shaper, and underground nests. These are mainly constructed as a shield to protect entire colonies of wasps.

Why Do Wasps Build Nests?

Wasp build nests to live in colonies and to protect young wasps. These areas are ideal sheltered places where young wasps can grow.

Social wasps build the most complex nests. All wasps living in a social nest work together to care for young wasps and to repair the nest if and when needed.

Food is often collected by social wasps and brought back to the nest, mainly to serve as nutrition for younger wasps.

How Do Wasps Build Nests?

Nests appear like thin paper-like structures. Each wasp nest is created out of wood fiber which is shaped in hexagonal tubular cells that are placed next to each other.

The material of this nest is wood. A queen wasp starts collecting wood. Using strong jaws, small pieces of wood are mixed with water and saliva until they are broken down into a soft paper-like material.

This material is used to create wasps’ nests. As thin wood, the material is degradable.

Wasp nests tend to deteriorate from one year to another and wasps need to build new ones.

The timeline for building nests is somewhat similar from one wasp species to another.

The female queen wasp gets out of hibernation in the spring immediately looking to establish a new nest and a new colony.

Nests see the most activity from January to April when they’re fully established. The queen wasp can fly tens of miles to find the right spot for the nest.

Once the queen has built the nest eggs are laid in each hexagonal cell. These eggs turn to the larva in a few days and eventually pupate into adults. It can take up to 48 days for adult wasps to emerge.

Once new wasps emerge, they help the queen develop the nest.

The first wasps that pupate in the nest are all worker wasps. It’s the second generation of wasps pupating in the fall that comes with male wasps.

The nest sees its end in the winter when most wasps die. The queen flies away during the winter to emerge and establish a new nest in the spring.

Wasp Nest Types

There are various types of wasp nests depending on each wasp species. Some are made out of paper while others are made from mud or chewed plant fibers.

Paper Wasp Nest

Paper Wasp Nest

Paper wasps mostly create paper nests. However, some types of paper wasps also create nests from mud. The vast majority of paper wasps are made make nests using paper in sheltered areas such as eaves of houses.

These nests are shaped by hexagonal tubes similar to petioles. The nest is always rich in a deterring chemical that mainly aims at keeping ants away.

Larvae in a paper wasp nest

Yellowjacket Nest

Yellowjacket nest

Yellowjacket wasps build both concealed and exposed paper nests. Up to a few hundred yellowjacket wasps can live in one colony which means these nests tend to be larger towards the summer.

Established in the spring, yellowjacket nests can reach the size of a basketball in mid-summer.

Made from paper, these nests deliberately be made larger. The larger a yellowjacket nest is the higher its chances to be used the following season get.

Huge nest of German Yellowjacket (Vespula germanica)

Hornet Nest

Hornet Nest

Hornets are social wasps that build nests to live together. Most types of hornets build aerial nests. These are the types of nests situated high above the ground, typically on trees.

Some types of hornets build nests underground. Hornets living in tropical climates typically nest well year-round underground.

These nests are made from paper. Typically round or ball-shaped, the nests have a hole at the bottom that serves as an entry point.

Otherwise, the nest is made up of small hexagonal chambers. As the nest cover, these chambers are also made from chewed pieces of wood that are turned into paper.

Big nest of Greater Banded Hornet (Vespa tropica)

Hornets are very protective of their nests. While males don’t have stingers, female hornets act together to defend their nests. When they sting humans this typically results in high pain, higher than the pain associated with a bee sting.

European Hornet (Vespa crabro) nest

Mud Dauber Nest

Mud Dauber Nest

Mud daubers create mud nests. Pure mud is used to create these nests as the material is easy to maneuver.

Common mud dauber nests have a cylindrical shape. They are shaped like a tube where the wasp can travel easily from one end to another.

This tube is then sealed off chamber after chamber. Each chamber is home to a wasp egg. These mud nests can be of bright color or dark color, depending on the mud color.

These nests aren’t particularly durable, especially in the face of large predators. Even small predators such as parasitic wasp species can easily make their way through a cylindrical nest.

Nesting chambers of Mud Dauber Wasp

Cicada Killer Nest

Cicada Killer Nest

Cicada killer wasps are solitary. They build complex underground nests. The main purpose of these underground nests is to provide a safe space for their eggs.

These nests don’t appear much from the surface. They only have one small opening, just enough for a wasp to go through.

The nests are complex underground, however. They can be as deep as afoot. This prevents the eggs from being an easy target.

Scoliid Wasp Nest

Scoliid wasps are parasitoids of the scarab beetle. This means they don’t build a nest but they use the nest of these beetles. The scarab beetle lives in burrows.

Scoliid wasps dig deep to find these burrows and chambers of the burrows. They sting and paralyze scarab beetle larva and lay their eggs in the burrows.

This is why these wasps are often seen as beneficial to biodiversity.

Potter Wasp Nest

Potter Wasp Nest

Potter wasps have a complex approach to building nests. They can use existing nests or burrows of other species such as scoliid wasps.

However, potter wasps regularly use mud to build their own small individual nests for each egg they lay. These small nests similar to pots are seen on homes and exterior walls frequently. Bee larvae or caterpillars are often enclosed in these small pots together with a wasp egg.

Where Do Wasps Build Nests?

Wasps tend to build their nests in diverse locations. Some wasps travel tens of miles to find the right spot to build a nest. The large the nest the more effort wasps are ready to put in and this includes traveling.

On Walls

Wasp nest on the wall

Wasp nests are common on walls. You can easily find them around the house, on garage walls, or anywhere else on a vertical surface where they are better sheltered from potential predators.

Examples of wasps that build nests on walls include potter wasps. The species mixes dirt with water and saliva to build small individual nests for each egg they lay directly on a wall.

On the Roof

Wasp nest on the roof

Roofs are ideal places for aerial nests. This is where many species decide to build paper nests that are sheltered from a wide range of potential predators.

Wasps aren’t afraid of building nests on the roof of a home. Many generations can even use the same nest on the roof as long as the nest remains undisturbed.

On a Tree

Wasp nest on a tree

Aerial wasp nests are often made on trees. A species substance similar to glue is used to attach the nest to a tree trunk or a tree branch.

Once the nest is attached the queen wasp and other worker wasps can elaborate it further by adding more hexagonal paper chambers.

In the Ground

Wasp nest in the ground

Wasps often live in burrows and underground tunnels. Scollid wasps are an example species that lives underground.

Some wasps dig their burrows while others seek crevices of other species to use as their own.

In the Chimney

Chimneys offer a sheltered location to build a nest. Since smoke is only present in the winter, wasps can live and build elaborate paper nests in chimneys during the warm months.

In Attics

Many wasps build nests in attics. These areas get natural shelter from predators. They are also generally warm as many wasp species prefer to nest in a warm place, even if not in direct sunlight.

Biggest Wasp Nest

There’s a Guinness World Record for the largest wasp nest in the world. The record was set in April 1963 in New Zealand. The wasp nest was made from chewed wood with a paper-like texture.

The nest was so large it eventually fell off the tree. It measured 12ft 2in in length and 5.25ft in diameter.

Wasps Nest in Winter

Wasp nests largely remain unused in the winter. Cold temperature leads to the death of most wasps. The queen wasp might be the only surviving wasp during the winter.

Queen wasps hibernate over the winter. They reduce their activity completely only emerging back in the spring when they either repair an old nest from previous seasons or when they start building a new nest.

How To Get Rid of Wasp Nest?

You can get rid of wasps nests with caution. This is best done at night when all wasps are inside.

Wasp Nests Are Removed In The Evening

The nest needs to be removed in the evening or at night. Most wasps spend the night fixing the nest and they are located inside.

A Garbage Bag Is Needed To Remove The Nest

A garbage bag is ideal to quickly cover the nest. Once covered, you can pull the nest to detach it from its base and quickly close the bag before discarding it in the garbage.

Wasp Nest Prevention

It’s best to avoid wasp nests in the first place. This can be done by keeping your home clean and the windows and doors shut. The attic needs to be properly sealed to avoid having to deal with wasps in this area.

Remove Fruits And Food From Around The House

Food sources such as rotting fruits attract wasps. These need to be removed. All fruits that grow around the house need to be picked to avoid having to deal with large and potentially dangerous wasp nests.

Grow Wasp-Deterring Plants Such As Basil

Basil and wormwood are just a few plants that wasps don’t like.  Mint and basil can easily be grown in pots and placed next to doors and windows. These plants deter bees and wasps.

Seal Off Garbage Cans

Garbage cans attract wasps such as yellowjackets. Food traces around the garbage also attract flies. This is why it’s recommended to seal these off.

Immediately Remove Small Nests

Removing small nests is also part of prevention. Small nests might only have eggs and a queen wasp inside. It’s the ideal time to remove these nests.

The first generation of working wasps emerges in just a few weeks helping the queen build a larger nest. This is why smaller nests need to be removed immediately before becoming larger.


Wasp nests can be found out in forests, on walls, in the attic, or even in burrows. Most wasp nests start to appear in the spring eventually reaching their peak size in mid-summer.

Wasp nests are best removed as early as possible when located in or near home.

Underground wasp nests can be removed from the lawn using frequent watering.

Wasps use all types of materials to build nests. More frequently, chewed pieces of wood are used to create a paper-like material, ideal for wasp nests.

Most wasps constantly repair a wasp nest. This is why these nests get larger all the time.

It’s best to exercise caution when removing wasp nests. Wasp can sting you when they trigger the alarm. A pheromone that acts as an alarm bell is released by wasps when they encounter a perceived nest threat.

Some wasps don’t build a nest at all. They use the nests of other species to lay their eggs in. Both wasps that build their nests and wasps that use the nests of other species eventually die in the winter. The remaining nest might not be re-used in the spring.