Underground insects... hornets or bees?

daved314July 27, 2014


Can anyone tell what the insect is in the attached photo? I have a constant stream of them entering a hole in the ground near the side of my house. I'm preparing to lay the shop vac out near the hole with soapy water inside in hopes of bringing the numbers down significantly.

Can you tell if these are young or adult?


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Can't tell, but it may be a yellow jacket nest. Nasty, mean bug!


    Bookmark   July 27, 2014 at 4:41PM
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I just saw a video last night of a man dealing with the same problem. He waited till after dark when they were all in the nest/ground. removed any stones etc laying on the ground around the hole then laid a piece of screen over the hole, cut a tiny x in the middle, over the hole, then laid some bricks to hold it down, looks like you would need 3 bricks. He then squirted a bunch of liquid Dawn dishwashing liquid down the hole and while he was doing this, had the water hose in his other hand with the water turned on with pretty good force of water. Once he had squirted the Dawn in the hole he started filling it with water, he had the end of the hose right on the ground, not holding it above the hole but right on the ground over the hole. He said he has done this with several inground nests and it kills them every time. He said the reason he uses the screen just as a precaution incase some would come out as he started the process.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2014 at 2:31PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

I suspect yellow jackets, too. Any that you see will be adults. The larvae look nothing like the adults and remain hidden in the communal nest where they are fed by the workers.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2014 at 2:45PM
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Be careful... do it once and do it right. If these are yellow jackets, and it does look like it, they will swarm and attack if you irritate them. Do some reading about yellow jackets before you attempt anything, and good luck.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2014 at 9:21PM
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Thanks for the responses all. I've read many articles and watched a few videos (including one that sounds identical to dbfirewife's reference). I am confident the insects are Yellow Jackets and I also located a second nest on a different side of my home (joy). So I have the east nest and the south nest.

I've managed to decrease activity at the east nest by:

1. running a shop-vac with soapy water inside for 2 hours during the day time.
2. one week later, repeating number 1.
3. the evening of #2, squeezing half a bottle of Dawn on the ground near the hole and turning the water spicket (which happens to be directly above the hole) on for about 10 minutes. I skipped the screen since I was able to turn the water on and off from inside the house.

Two days later there was still some activity at the east nest so this evening I heated a 4 gallon pot of water to just under boiling (95 deg C) and poured it over the opening. I'm not sure how much of the water made it to the nest (I poured quickly) but I am hopeful that some damage was done. I expect I'll be losing some grass too.

As for the south nest, activity was quite high there earlier today. I have a garden hose dangling directly above the nest opening that I am aware of. When I first soaped the east nest, I also soaped the south nest. I soaped it again today. I don't expect to have destroyed it yet but I do not want to go through the motions of pouring water over it if the east nest is not yet destroyed.

I would run the shop vac 24 hrs a day if it weren't for next-door neighbors. It works well but I suspect a few hours at a time isn't enough to take the nest out.

I've read plenty of suggestions which involve either harmful chemicals, explosions or fire but I'd like to steer clear of all three. One guy had suggested pumping CO into the nest with a hose attached to the car exhaust- this sounds tempting but I don't have such a hose and these nests are right alongside the home and I'd hate to have the fumes leak inside. I'm also hoping the hot water doesn't damage anything.

Will update as things progress. Thanks again for the support!


    Bookmark   August 4, 2014 at 9:43PM
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I had a nest last summer, here's what I did: waited till dark when they were all in and dressed up in layers! Poured a cup (only) of gasoline down the hole, put away the gas can, and tossed a match. Note, gasoline fumes will hug the ground. I had a little fairy ring of fire radiate out briefly, nothing to be worried about since I wetted down the grass first. A little flame burned for a few minutes from the hole like a Tiki torch. After it was out I put a couple shovels of dirt over it. Next day there were maybe 2 yellow jackets hanging around. If the fire didn't get them the fumes did.

The dishwashing liquid sounds good, certainly less fire risk, but it sounds like it is not always effective. If it's not working you may have to try something else.

Mean little buggers! As bad as hornets.

This post was edited by toxcrusadr on Fri, Aug 8, 14 at 14:34

    Bookmark   August 5, 2014 at 12:50PM
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I'm not as worried about fire as I am worried about explosions. I've seen too many cases of poor decisions with gasoline leading to loss of life.

That and the south nest is built right next to a gas line. Literally- these hornets dug their nest opening adjacent to it.

The boiling water took care of the east nest. Not a hornet in sight today. The south nest remains active and I'm nervous about even dumping boiling water next to a gas line. It just doesn't seem like the intelligent thing to do.

I may continue to drench the nest with soap and water. Hoping I can find a mixer that can be placed at the front of the hose and then filled with soap. not sure if I'd ruin my hose or if dish soap in a garden hose really matters that much in low concentrations.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2014 at 7:54PM
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Why don't you get a professional exterminator to help you? If you mess up and they swarm and bite you. I can't even think about how that would feel.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2014 at 7:59PM
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So far there has been no aggressive behavior and I have always felt I can "get away" long before a swarm could form. That being said, I almost fell on my face running across an uneven spot in my lawn, in the dark, moments after placing a clear, soap-filled bowl upside down above the south nest.

And I'm trying to DIY to save money.

Plus I suspect most pros would push chemicals. Which I don't want running down the side of my home.

Regarding the aggressiveness, I almost feel bad dispatching these fella but I fear their attitude changing toward the end of summer, after their numbers have multiplied greatly.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2014 at 10:11PM
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I have used the Raid room foggers that kill bees for the last few years with 100% success. We have new nests in the yard every year. Wait until dark when everyone is at home and sleeping, press the top of the fogger down, stick spray opening into hole, hold can in place with brick on top of it.
Viola no yellow jackets, no explosions.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 10:47PM
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Boiling water should not have any effect on a gas line. The soil will soak up the heat quickly, and I doubt it would hurt the pipe anyway.

Gasoline is a personal choice - I happen to be a chemist with haz mat training so I know what to do and what not, but it's not for everyone. I probably should not suggest lighting up any amount of gasoline to the general public. :-] Note, diesel or mineral spirits (paint thinner) are heavier, less volatile and much less explosive, but will do the same job here. Just FYI and in case anyone else looks at this thread.

I understand your not wanting to use chemicals. In a case like this you are applying it to a specific area rather than dousing the entire house and yard. If you can't kill them with soap, you might have to consider it.

No soap that can be bought at a retail store will harm a garden hose.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2014 at 2:40PM
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Wasp & hornet spray seems like the safest solution, if you can see the hole from 15-20 feet away.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2014 at 11:05AM
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Posting an update to say things are progressing well. The east nest remains inactive following the ~4 gallons of boiling water being poured into it.

The south nest activity has decrease greatly. The inverted clear bowl has killed most of the grass under it but has taken out a good number of wasps as well. I only have decent visibility of one "side" of the bowl but there are approximately 30 wasp bodies near it. There was one wasp crawling around inside there today so I'm not ready to remove it yet. While performing yard word yesterday I didn't see a single wasp enter or leave the area through the air.

So far, here are my opinions of the non-chemical, non-explosive yellow-jacket wasp underground nest elimination methods:

shop-vac w/ soapy water inside: long and/or multiple applications may be required for effectiveness

soap and water: multiple applications resulted in limited success.

four gallons of boiling water: one application resulted in 100% success which continued over 1 week after application. significant damage to grass in application area. note shop-vac and soap/water methods had been attempted first.

inverted glass bowl: four days after application the effectiveness looks promising. the only activity present after day 1 has been activity inside the bowl.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2014 at 6:45PM
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In my area we just wait for fall and winter to kill them all. If they are a huge nuisance then they should be gotten rid of in June. Why the rush to get rid of them now when mother nature will do them in soon enough? They won't use the same nest next year- so I guess I just do not understand the need to eradicate them now when they will be gone in a few short months. Not trying to be snarky but truly don't understand.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2014 at 6:59PM
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Because I wouldn't want to get stung. It was just on the news here not to long ago where they swarmed and stung two people about 100 times each. They are wild things and I don't trust them!

    Bookmark   August 13, 2014 at 7:06PM
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Acadia- not taking your response as snarky at all. My reasoning is the nests are close to the house, the number of wasps were increasing, I heard they get more aggressive toward the end of summer and there are children in the area who I would not want to see stung by even one.

Plus, after all the trials were done here, I learned a few things and found that it's not difficult at all to shutdown an underground hornets nest. I'm surprised the bowl method is mentioned less than gasoline but I suppose gasoline is faster and just feels like a better solution.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2014 at 7:43PM
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