P&PDL Picture of the Week for
December 4, 2006

Wasp Nests

Tim Gibb, Insect Diagnostician, Department of Entomology, Purdue University

Paper wasps nests are often found during the Fall and Winter months when the leaves are gone from the trees.  European hornet nests are most commonly found in trees and other exposed areas.  Yellow jackets usually construct their nests inside wall voids, attics, ground cavities or other semi-protected areas.  Regardless of the wasp involved, two questions almost always accompany the discovery of such nests;  (1) should they be removed and (2) will they be reused the following year.

The short answer is that the nests are made of biodegradable paper that will break down under the wet and windy conditions of the winter months.  If they present an eye-sore such as in the accompanying photo, this breakdown process can be accelerated simply by scraping them off of the siding or pruning them out of a tree.  The most important fact, however, is that the wasps only use a nest one season.  By this time of year (December) queens (the only individuals to survive the winter) have left the nest and are currently hunkered down under leaf litter somewhere attempting to survive the winter.  When she emerges in the spring she will begin a new nest from scratch and progressively expand it as her colony grows.  Old nests, even if they survive the winter, will not be suitable for the new colony.

Click image to enlarge

Wasp nest on side of house

Wasp nest

Purdue Plant & Pest Diagnostic Lab Purdue Cooperative Extension Service