Ground hornets may look intimidating, but these solitary wasps are actually not known to be inherently aggressive towards people. That said, they can cause serious lawn damage and even potential health hazards to those with allergies or sensitivities.
Besides, most people aren’t too keen on having one of the world’s largest hornets nesting in their turf. With that in mind, today’s article is all about how to get rid of ground hornets and keep them from coming back.
Let’s get started.
What Are Ground Hornets?
Ground hornets are solitary hornets native to Canada and the United States.
Origin: Canada, North America, And South America
Scientific Name: Sphecius Hogardii (Latreille)
Other Names: Cicada Killer, Cicada Hawk, Eastern Cicada Killer, Ground Digger Wasp, Cicada Killer Wasp
Size: 2 Inches
What Is A Ground Hornet?
Ground hornets go by many names. Also known as the Cicada Killer, the ground digger wasp, the Cicada hawk, the Eastern Cicada killer, and the cicada killer wasp, a ground hornet is a species of insect that belongs to the vespidae family.
As we mentioned briefly above, the ground hornet is considered one of the world’s largest ground-dwelling hornets, growing sometimes to be over 2 inches in length. Ground hornets are solitary insects that feed on nectar and prey on insects, making them beneficial pollinators in small numbers.
Adult ground hornets spend the majority of their lives hunting for prey and caring for their young. In fact, they don’t generally eat the prey they catch. Instead, the insects they catch are brought to their nest, where their larvae can feed on the prey for several weeks before overwintering.
Most notably, ground hornets are known for preying on cicadas, which can be incredibly problematic in the southern United States.
In spite of being known as ground hornets, these hornets don’t only build nests in the ground. While they do prefer dry, loose soil to build their chambers and lay their eggs, they can also build nests in rotted trees, stumps, logs, rodent burrows, snake holes and more.
We should also note that female ground hornets are only able to lay one egg at a time. Furthermore, as solitary insects, ground hornets don’t share their nests with other hornets.
In spite of this, ground hornets are quick to reproduce, and while they don’t share their nest with other hornets, they do tend to nest around the same vicinity, especially if conditions are ideal.
This can lead to an entire yard riddled with ground hornets and their young, which can cause serious damage to turf and distress for the owner.
How To Identify Ground Hornets on Your Property
These insects like to build their nest in dry, loose soil.
As we previously mentioned, ground hornets do not only make their nests in the ground. They can also build nests in dead trees, logs, stumps, and old rodent or snake burrows. However, they are called ground hornets for a reason, and they are most damaging when they opt to build their nest in the soil of your lawn or turf.
Ground hornets are most attracted to spacious areas like golf courses, dry lawns, sidewalk borders, driveways or garden edges, sandy playgrounds, and sparse or patchy hillsides.
A ground hornet nest is easy to identify once you know what to look for. When searching for the ideal nesting spot, ground hornets look for areas of soil that are easy to sift through. This means that they will choose dry, crumbly soil or dirt.
The beginnings of a ground hornet nest will look like a C-shaped mound, according to experts. Slowly, this mound will form into a tiny volcano-like heap with a hole in the center where the ground hornet can come and go.
If you are only dealing with one ground hornet in your yard, you are more likely to identify her when she is out and about feasting on nectar in your garden or looking to catch prey for her young.
However, multiple ground hornets nesting in your yard can be disastrous. In large numbers, ground hornets can lead to severe lawn damage that includes dead and dying grass, deformed gardens, patchy areas in the lawn, and more.
Are Ground Hornets Dangerous To People or Pets?
Though they are some of the largest of the hornet species, Ground Hornets are not inherently aggressive to people or animals.
The ground hornet does look frightening, however they are considered more docile than many of their other winged and stinging counterparts.
Furthermore, only female ground hornets are able to sting.
But though ground hornets are not particularly aggressive towards people or pets, they will sting if they are disturbed or feel threatened. This is particularly dangerous to gardners, children, or curious pets playing outside. Worse, a ground hornet sting can be life threatening to anyone with allergies or sensitivities.
In rare cases, a ground hornet sting can lead to an allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is a severe and sometimes deadly allergic reaction that occurs when your body releases a sudden and large rush of chemicals in response to a trigger such as an insect sting or food allergy.
Anaphylaxis can occur in both humans and pets, and is a medical emergency. It can happen within seconds of being introduced to the allergy trigger, and symptoms include rapid heartbeat, weak heartbeat, a skin rash, nausea, vomiting, breathing difficulties, and collapse.
If you or your pet has allergies to bees or insect bites, it is best to stay away from a ground hornet if you spot one and contact a professional.
On the other hand, if you’re not sensitive to insect stings and are ready to brave getting rid of ground hornets yourself, then keep reading.
How To Get Rid of Ground Hornets – Products That Work
Large infestations of ground hornets can lead to lawn damage, which is one of the reasons it’s important to control this pest.
For the most part, if you only have one or two ground hornets nesting in your yard, it’s safe to leave them alone. Generally, ground hornets are more beneficial than they are nuisance pests, although if you have allergies or sensitivities, you have a good reason for wanting to get rid of them.
Another reason you’ll want to get rid of ground hornets is if they have opted to nest in a high-traffic area in your lawn, or if multiple ground hornets have begun nesting and causing damage.
There are a few different ways you can go about getting rid of ground hornets around your property, and while a number of products are available, not all of them work effectively.
The type of product that will work best for you when getting rid of ground hornets is going to depend on the size of your property and the number of ground hornets you are dealing with.
Some products are chemical based insecticides that, while effective, can be harmful to people, pets and the environment if not used as directed. Other products to get rid of ground hornets are made with natural ingredients that, while safe, may not be as effective.
Before you decide which product or method would be right for you on your mission to get rid of ground hornets, it’s important to do some research, consider your lifestyle and family, and the severity of your ground hornet infestation.
With that in mind, we have listed some of our favorite products for how to get rid of ground hornets below.
Take a look.
Black Flag Foaming Wasp and Hornet Killer
First on our list of products to get rid of hornets is a classic insecticide spray. This spray by Black Flag is specifically designed to target wasps and hornets and will work against ground hornets in your yard.
It comes with a targeted applicator and, once sprayed, turns into a foam to envelope the entire nest and reach both the hornet and its egg or larvae inside.
The foaming insecticide kills ground hornets on contact. It can also work to kill mud daubers, yellow jackets, and a few other ground-dwelling pests. However, we should note that this spray is for outdoor use only.
It is made with a chemical ingredient that can be harmful to people, pets and the environment if not used as directed, so be sure to store it somewhere out of reach of children and read the instructions carefully before use.
Spectracide Wasp and Hornet Killer
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Another insecticide we recommend if you’re dealing with a large infestation of ground hornets is this aerosol spray by Spectracide. Again, it is designed specifically to target wasps and ground hornets, and the spray can reach up to 27 feet.
Not only will this spray kill the ground hornets in your yard, but it will also kill any eggs or larvae in the nest. This spray is best utilized when applied at sunset or after dark, when ground hornets are less active.
Like any chemical insecticide, this ground hornet spray contains a chemical ingredient that can be toxic to people and pets. Keep it out of reach of children and use it only as directed.
EcoSmart Wasp and Hornet Killer
If you’re looking for a more environmentally friendly way to manage ground hornets, you might want to check out EcoSmart Wasp and Hornet Killer. We like this product because it is safer to use around children and pets, and it is also quite effective against ground hornets.
This spray will also work against yellow jackets and other flying and stinging pests when used as directed.
The ingredients in this product are all plant based and natural. The order comes in a pack of two, and this product is best applied directly to the ground hornet nest after dark.
Drione Pest Insecticide Dust
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Insecticide dusts have been found to be effective against ground hornets, and we like this one in particular because it includes an applicator wand for precise targeting.
The dust is made with pyrethrins, which is an insecticide known to kill wasps and hornets. This ingredient is also effective against other pests including centipedes, bedbugs, box elder bugs, ants, roaches, spiders and more.
Like most products on this list, it is important to keep this insecticide dust out of reach of children and pets. It is also safest to apply it after dusk.
Last, we have Tempo Dust for ground hornet control. Tempo dust is made with an insecticide known as cyfluthrin. This is a potent insecticide chemical that is highly effective against ground hornets, though it can also be dangerous and toxic to people, pets and the environment if not used correctly.
In order to use tempo dust safely and effectively, it’s important to read the instructions carefully before application.
You might also consider purchasing an application wand to more precisely apply the tempo dust into the ground hornets’ nests.
Temp dust works by killing pests on contact. It will also kill their eggs or larvae inside the nest. Temp dust not only works on ground hornets, but also on a variety of pesky insects like bed bugs, ants, spiders and more.
You can use tempo dust both inside and out for pest control so long as you use it as directed. Of course, remember to keep this product out of reach of children and pets.
How To Get Rid Of Ground Hornets Using Home Remedies
Dish soap and water in a spray bottle can work well to kill ground hornets.
Purchasing products to get rid of ground hornets may not be for everyone. If you would prefer to look into do it yourself pest control methods for how to get rid of ground hornets, then this is the section for you.
Getting rid of ground hornets using home remedies is not only cost effective, it’s also likely easier than you think. Best of all, this type of method often uses natural or organic ingredients you probably already have in your home.
The Soap And Water Method
If you only have a few ground hornets nesting in your yard or garden, you can get rid of them using the soap and water method.
In a large cup or bucket, combine water and a few drops of liquid dish soap. Mix or shake the solution until the water is sudsy, then approach the ground hornet nust after dark. It is usually best to wait until later in the evening, when the ground hornet is likely nesting and inactive.
Carefully approach the nest and pour the soapy water mixture into the hole. Then quickly cover the hole with dirt or debris.
The soapy mixture will coat the ground hornet’s wings so it cannot fly and sting you. It will also coat and suffocate it quickly.
Ammonia is another household ingredient you likely already have on hand and which you can use to eliminate pesky ground hornets in or around your property. Simply approach the ground hornet nest after dark and follow the same procedure as you would above with the soap and water method.
Again, cover the hole quickly after pouring the liquid into the mound and retreat. Repeat this process as necessary.
Essential Oils To Get Rid Of Ground Hornets
If you prefer not to kill the ground hornets and simply make your yard less hospitable to them, you might consider using essential oils to encourage them to find a new nesting spot.
There are a variety of ways you can use essential oils to repel ground hornets. Not only are essential oils safe and pleasant smelling for people, they are also safe on the environment and generally safer for pets as well. Best of all, the right essential oils will not only repel ground hornets, but they will also repel other pests like mosquitoes, spiders, wasps, ants, mice, rats and snakes.
The best essential oils for pest control include:
- Peppermint Oil
- Citronella Oil
- Lemongrass Oil
- Clove Oil
- And Geranium Oil
To use the essential oils above for getting rid of ground hornets, you have a few options. First, you can combine 10 to 15 drops of the oil of your choice into two cups of water in a spray bottle. You may add a bit of liquid dish soap in the bottle as well for your protection, in case you run into an angry ground hornet while spraying this mixture near the nest.
Then, go out and spray around the areas you have noticed ground hornet activity. We should note that while most essential oils are safe to use around plants, some can be harmful when sprayed directly on vegetation.
Before deciding which type of oil to use when getting rid of ground hornets, we recommend looking into the types of plants you will be spraying the oil around to ensure there will not be an adverse reaction.
You also have the option of using cotton balls soaked in one of the above essential oils. Place the soaked cotton balls around the nests after dark, and replace them with freshly soaked cotton balls every three days.
If you have pets, keep an eye on them around these soaked cotton balls or stick with using the spray bottle method.
While most essential oils are not toxic to pets in small amounts, pets can be sensitive to certain smells. Curious pets who may chew on the cotton balls can also be at risk for suffering digestive upset.
The below video talks more about how to use essential oils for pest control in your garden.
The Hot Water Method
Last, we have the hot water method for how to get rid of ground hornets. This is perhaps the easiest and most affordable method you can use for pest control, though it does have it’s risks.
To use this method most effectively, you must get water to a rolling boil on the stove. Then quickly transfer this boiling water out to the hornet nests in your yard and pour the water into the mounds.
Be careful not to burn yourself while using this method, and again it is best to use this method after dark, when ground hornets are less active and more likely to be in their nests.
Ways to Repel and Prevent Ground Hornets
Try companion planting in your garden using plants that deter ground hornets like marigolds.
Getting rid of ground hornets takes time and work, so once you have managed to rid your property of these pests, your next focus should be on prevention. Ground hornets are seasonal, emerging during the beginning of summer and staying active until early fall.
This means that you have all of fall, winter and spring to set up a game plan and work to prevent these pests from returning to your yard.
Here are a few ways you can go about preventing future ground hornets:
Keep Up With Routine Landscaping
While it is true that ground hornets can build their nests in different types of environments, they generally prefer dry, loose soil. To keep them from nesting in your yard, it’s best to keep up with routine landscaping.
Ensure that any patchy areas in your lawn are filled in and seeded, and be sure that your lawn and garden is routinely watered.
Freshly watered soil is going to be too heavy for ground hornets to build mounds in, and the water in the earth is not conducive for their young.
You can also repel ground hornets by staying active in your yard and garden. Typically, ground hornets will want to build a nest in an area that is not frequently disturbed. If you are repeatedly moving the soil, watering your yard, and planting, it is more likely ground hornets will nest somewhere else.
Fill In Any Old Rodent or Snake Holes Along Your Property
While they can build their own nests, ground hornets are also creatures of opportunity. If they find a pre-made rodent or snake hole, they will readily use this as a makeshift nest.
To prevent this from happening, experts recommend you frequent your property and fill in any holes in the earth that could potentially make a nice ground hornet nest in the future.
Remove Dead Trees or Tree Stumps
Along with removing any potential pre-made nests and ensuring your lawn and garden are watered and lush, we also suggest removing dead trees or stumps around your property. If the soil isn’t conducive to a ground hornet, they can easily turn to using dead trees or stumps to build their nests, as we mentioned earlier.
Use A Routine Pest Control Product To Get Rid Of Potential Ground Hornet Prey
Ground hornets are most typically active when cicadas are active, though they also prey on other types of insects as well. In order to keep ground hornets at bay, you should also work to keep their prey at bay.
Use a routine pest control year round to keep insect pests out of your yard and property. Not only will this reduce your chances of dealing with ground hornets, but it will also alleviate a variety of other pest issues as well.
Invite The Predators
Like most insects, ground hornets have a wide variety of natural predators. With a bit of research, you can work to make your yard more hospitable to some of these predators to help decrease the number of ground hornets you are dealing with.
Some of the best predators for ground hornets include:
- Some Species Of Birds
- Large Spiders
- And Bats
Try Companion Planting To Repel Ground Hornets
Ground hornets are sensitive insects and may be repelled by a variety of plants. Though they do build their nests in dry soil below the ground, they are sensitive to certain smells from plants nearby. You can help repel ground hornets by planting some of the below vegetation:
- Pitcher Plants
- Crane’s Bill
- And Basil
It’s also important to ensure your lawn is dethatched and properly fertilized. Some of the best fertilizers are organic fertilizers that help to ensure your lawn is healthy. We also recommend seeding dry or sparse patches around your lawn to keep any open areas free of ground hornets in the future.
And there you have it – everything you need to know about how to get rid of ground hornets and keep them from returning.
Of course, if you only have one or two ground hornets, you may consider letting them hang around, especially if you’re dealing with a cicada issue.
So, what do you think? Would you let a ground hornet move in during the summer months? Tell us how you feel about ground hornets in the comment section below.
Thanks for reading!
Jack founded our blog after two decades of working in the pest control industry. His vast experience dealing with a wide array of pests allows him to diagnose issues quickly and get to the heart of pest problems quickly and effectively. He has serviced more than 2,000 homes over his career and there is hardly any pest situation that he has not seen before.