Where Do Hornets Nest?

Bald-faced hornets paper nest. It is a species of yellow jacket wasp and not a hornet. Colonies contain 400 to 700 workers. Workers aggressively defend their nest by repeatedly stinging invaders.
© Michael G McKinne/Shutterstock.com

Written by Niccoy Walker

Published: May 19, 2023

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Large and robust, hornets are a type of wasp that closely resemble yellowjackets. There are over 20 species, with most residing in the tropical regions of Asia. However, several are found in North America, where they are typically considered pests.

Hornets get a bad rap for being aggressive and territorial, but they seldom attack people unless they feel their colony is threatened. And while they won’t bother you unless you bother them, it can still be a good idea to be aware of your surroundings, so you don’t accidentally disturb their nest. But just where do hornets nest? Discover the answer now, including when they are the most active and other interesting facts. 

What Does a Hornet Nest Look Like?

Bald-faced hornets paper nest. It is a species of yellow jacket wasp and not a hornet. Colonies contain 400 to 700 workers. Workers aggressively defend their nest by repeatedly stinging invaders.

Hornet nests are tear-drop shaped and grow as large as a basketball.

©Michael G McKinne/Shutterstock.com

Hornets are social creatures that can have big hives. And the size of their hive directly correlates to how big their nest is. Some nests can grow as big as a basketball and often have a tear-drop shape to them. 

Hornets construct their nest by chewing wood, which they mix with their saliva to form a paper mâché-like material. And hornet‘s nests also have a single entrance toward the bottom of the oblong structure. They are grayish brown in color.

Where Do Hornets Nest?

Hornets Nest

Hornet nests are normally built above ground.

©Klod/Shutterstock.com

Where a hornet builds its nest largely depends on the species. In the United States, we have three main hornet species: the bald-faced hornet, the European hornet, and the giant hornet. The European hornet builds its nest in open attics and inside walls. And the bald-faced hornet typically picks a spot in a tree or a thick bush. Unlike yellowjackets, who often find old burrow holes to build their nests, hornets place theirs well above the soil.

Hornets begin building their nests in late spring, and the construction continues through the summer. Once the brood of new queens leaves the nest in the fall, the nest is abandoned. The remaining male hornets around the nest will eventually die due to starvation and cold temperatures. While hornets never reuse an old nest, they often come back and build a new nest in the same spot. If you find a hornet nest on your property, you might be surprised to find a new one in the same place the next year.

Do Hornets Stay in Their Nest All Winter?

The new batch of queens and older mated queens abandon the nest come fall. They hibernate in rock crevices, under bark, among leaf leather, or inside burrows, waiting out the winter until spring. However, male hornets stay with the nest and die in the late fall and early winter. They can’t survive in cold temperatures. But the queens rebuild their nests in the spring and start the process over.

When Are Hornets the Most Active?

Hornets are active during the spring and summer. And their lifespan only lasts one season, except for fertile queens who build nests and produce the following year. You won’t find the queens out buzzing around during the cold months because they bunker down to survive the winter. 

During the warmer months, hornets are active during daylight hours and become inactive at night. If you plan on getting rid of a hornet nest on your property, it’s best to do it after dark.

Hornets can be the most aggressive in the late summer to early fall when they are on high alert for preserving their last brood, which will go on to become the new queens. Reports of hornet stings tend to go up during this time of year.

Hornets are active during the day in spring and summer.

©iStock.com/ErikAgar

What States Have the Most Hornets?

Hornets can be found all over the United States, but they prefer warmer regions. Hornets thrive when there’s heat and have trouble adapting to temperatures below 50 degrees. You are likely to find more hornets in areas with a warm, mild climate. And they live in many habitats, such as woodlands, meadows, parks, gardens, and urban and suburban areas.  

Hornet Nest Vs. Wasp Nest

Technically, hornets are wasps. A better comparison would be to examine the nests of different wasp species. For instance, the paper wasp builds a hexagonal-shaped nest, where it places it on branches and eaves. And the mud dauber’s nest looks like a long tube made of mud or clay placed in covered areas like porches.

How Much is a Hornets Nest Worth?

A real hornet nest with yellow leaves isolated on white background.

You can buy a hornet nest on Ebay to decorate your home.


Image: Jamie Roach, Shutterstock

©Jamie Roach/Shutterstock.com

Apparently, hornets and other wasp nests are all the rage in home decor now. People use them to add a unique touch to their homes, and they double as a conversation piece. You can find them on Ebay ranging in price from $5 to $100.


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About the Author

Niccoy is a professional writer for A-Z Animals, and her primary focus is on birds, travel, and interesting facts of all kinds. Niccoy has been writing and researching about travel, nature, wildlife, and business for several years and holds a business degree from Metropolitan State University in Denver. A resident of Florida, Niccoy enjoys hiking, cooking, reading, and spending time at the beach.

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