Iowa Insect Information Notes

Preserving and Displaying a Hornet's Nest

Preserving and Displaying a Hornet's Nest

The Baldfaced Hornet is a social wasp found in the familiar large, gray, paper nests attached to a tree branch, shrub, utility pole or house. The paper-like nests are made of chewed wood fiber mixed with saliva. Hornet nests are frequently displayed in nature centers, schools, and natural history museums. They can also be displayed in the home as a conversation piece! Below are answers to the most common questions about displaying a hornets nest.

How is the nest collected? The easiest method of collecting a nest is to wait until after the hornets have abandoned the nest in the fall (after the first hard freeze or by late October). Hornet nests are annual; they last one summer and all occupants freeze or die of old age in the fall. Collect the nest as soon as possible because exposed, unprotected nests are subject to destruction by wildlife and weather. Collecting a nest in summer requires a degree of boldness. During the coolest part of the night and with the least disturbance possible, rapidly slip a large plastic bag over the nest. Close the bag around the limb above the nest. Tie the bag shut and cut the limb from the tree. Kill the hornets by placing the entire bag in a freezer overnight.

Will I get stung from hornets that emerge from a collected nest? There will be few, if any hornets in a nest collected in late fall. If you feel the need to be extra-cautious, leave the nest in a garage or porch where it will be protected from the weather until mid-winter. Then bring the nest indoors.

Will the nest smell bad? The carcasses of hornets and larvae that remain in a collected nest may produce a mild odor before they completely dry up. If this is unacceptable, leave the nest in a protected outdoor location as mentioned above.

Does the nest need to be treated with varnish to preserve it? No. It is not necessary to treat the collected nest in any way. The nest will last almost indefinitely if it is suspended in a dry location where it will not be damaged by handling or vibration.

Will new hornets emerge from eggs that hatch after the nest is hung indoors? No. Hornet eggs laid inside the nest by the queen hatch into grublike larvae that must be fed and cared for by the workers. If any eggs hatched indoors the tiny larvae would perish.

Updated 07/14/2005 - 3:44pm