Wasp Nests - Identification And What To Do About Them

Wasp nests are not usually welcomed by the people, but it has to be said that on balance, wasps are very beneficial insects both as pollinators (whose role is probably not fully understood), and natural 'pest control' - they can help keep down populations of crop eating ‘pests’.  They are largely beneficial in the garden, although you may think otherwise if you have lots of them eating the ripe plums from your plum tree.

There are actually thousands of wasp species, and most are solitary species and are pretty harmless, but the type of wasp people are mostly concerned about, are the black and yellow social wasps, which may be attracted to sweet, sugary drinks.

This page is mostly about social wasps.

Here, I will provide information about how to deter wasps from building a nest where they are not wanted, but first of all, how do you know whether you already have a wasp nest?

Wasp Nest Identification

Of those wasps which build their own nests, and depending on the species in the country you are in, and whether they are social or solitary wasp, wasp nests can vary in size, construction material and appearance, but are typically greyish or straw coloured in appearance.

You may come across nests in the ground, or aerial nests hanging from tree branches or eaves of buildings, for example.

I’d like to thank Kelly Pinnick for permission to use the following photographs.

This nest (social wasp) was inside a shrub, and the picture was taken in the UK.  As you can see, this nest has a papery appearance, as if there are leaves of grey paper stuck together in a kind of spherical ball shape. 

These photographs show a little of the inside of a wasp nest. 

As you can see, the inside construction resembles honey combs.  These are the cells where wasp larvae are reared.  Nests are only used once, and wasp colonies only last a season – a little like bumblebees, because only the queens survive to establish future colonies.  In warm weather, a colony may thrive longer.

  Wasp Nest Construction

Wasps are magnificent architects!  Truly!

Here is an excellent short YouTub video of a wasp nest outside a window by Vangelis Tsalesis showing wasps iin the process of building a nest:

Signs Of Wasp Activity

You may see tell tale signs of wasp activity in the form of tiny scratches on wooden fences and garden furniture as below.

Seeing these markings could indicate there is or has been at some point, a wasp nest nearby.

Where Do Wasps Build Their Nests?

As stated, a nest may be in the gorund - or in a compost heap, for that matter.

When building aerial nests, wasps commonly build their nests in trees, shrubs, hedgerows, and in my experience, fruit bushes such as raspberries, where they may provide excellent pest control as well as a brilliant pollination service (especially for autumn raspberries), but may cause concern in case of stings.

Below is an image of a wasp pollinating our raspberries.  You can read more about wasp pollination here.

However, they may select other places….

Wasp Nest In Shed Or Garage

Nests are commonly found in sheds and garages, and this photograph below provides a clear image of a nice smooth looking wasp nest in its entirety, that was found in a shed.

Wasp Nests In Chimneys

Another favourite place is the chimney – my sister had such a scenario.  Take into account that the nest was basically paper, and could be a potential fire hazard, so I advised her against lighting a fire in order to 'smoke the wasps out'.  Anyway, this could have backfired and made the wasps very angry! 

In my sisters case, fortunately, she did not use that particular room (where the fire place was located) very often, and it being a warm summer, she did not need to light the fire.  She simply kept the door closed to keep the wasps out of the rest of the house. 

Later in the year, when the wasps were no longer active, she removed the nest from the chimney, and any dead wasps left behind in the room.

Wasp Nest In The Compost Heap

One year, we had a nest in our compost heap.  At that time, the composter was made of plastic, and close to the back door of the house.  There were wasps going in and out all the time.  I am especially tolerant, however, and didn’t worry about the nest.  I simply stopped using the composter for some months.  

I was never stung (and nor have I ever been stung by a wasp), nor was my husband.  I find I am able to keep calm around wasps, and believe this is part of the answer, but that's just my opinion. 

It's very curious that some people are stung and others are not.   I can tolerate wasps landing on my arms or hands.  Similarily, I have seen videos of beekeepers who handle whole colonies of honey bees - bare chested, and with no hat - and are never stung, whereas most beekeepers where gloves, overalls and veils.

Wasp Nests In The Loft Or Attic

Another common place to see them, and sometimes an occasional hibernating queen or two. 

We have had hibernating wasp queens in the attic several times, but I always find they leave without a problem in the spring. I am also quite protective, and never harm the queens.  As yet, we have never had a nest in the attic, despite wasps hibernating there.

Everyone's situation is different, and indeed, an especially large nest could cause alarm, especially where there are pets and young children.

If you discover a large nest in the attic and find this intolerable, you will have to call for professional help. 

Alternatively, you could leave the nest alone and could remove any disused nest at the end of the season.  If you are going to do it yourself, wear protective gloves and clothing to ensure you are not caught out by any left behind wasps.  After that, install a Waspinator.

You can get a Waspinator from Amazon.com or from Amazon.co.uk.

Waspinators work by discouraging wasps from building nests, because wasps are territorial, and tend to avoid nests of other wasps.

The Eaves Of A House Or Building

Another favourite.  If the nest appears on a school, the wasp colony may be finished and gone by the time children return from the summer vacation period.   An empty nest may then provide an interesting talking and study opportunity. 

On the other hand, the nest may be very active. 

Seek assistance as appropriate.


How To Remove A Wasp Nest And Deter Them In The Future

Personally, I love wasps, and I am able to tolerate wasps anyway, but if you really are unable to, I recommend you should seek help if you urgently need to move a nest.

THEN, I recommend you install a Waspinator (image right).  A Waspinator looks like a wasp nest, thus deterring wasps from building a nest nearby, because - as stated earlier, wasps are territorial.  You could have a go at making one, but on the other hand, they are not too expensive and should last some time.  You can also use them to take with you on picnics.i do not advise similar products made from paper - they are not durable, and though initially cheaper, probably will not last as long.

You can get a Waspinator from:


or from


If you are imply bothered by wasps in the garden, remember they are excellent pollinators and pest-controllers - but if you still find them intolerable, you could try deterrents for the garden, such as Citronella Sticks.

A variety of products are available to help you repel wasps from the garden.  Also, see my page about deterring wasps.

Wasps are fascinating creatures! 

Read about the lifecycle of wasps.

Read about hornets.

3 Ways wasps benefit people and the planet



Frequently Asked Questions

Read Wasp FAQs


.......are unsung heroes of our ecosystem, pollinating our food (and the food of many of our farm animals) and many of the trees that enable us to breathe.

They therefore provide food for birds and mammals, all of which play a role in the food chain, supporting the web of life on earth.

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