On a walk in the woods, you come across a strange structure. It’s cylindrical and woven from slender branches, and it looks like a piece of modern art. Upon closer inspection, you realize that it must be an insect nest.
This nest could belong to any number of insect species: ants, bees, wasps, or even termites. Types of insect nests can be fascinating when you stumble upon them outdoors and away from your property, but if you come across different types of insect nests near your home, these insects could quickly turn into household pests.
But what are insect nests and what are the different types of insect nests you might come across? That’s what we’re here to find out.
What Are Insect Nests And Which Insects Make Different Types Of Insect Nests?
Insect nests serve as protection from predators and the elements for many types of insects.
The most common types of insect nests are nests built by social insects like ants, bees, wasps, and termites.
Social insects live in large communities called colonies and their nests may contain thousands of individuals. Different types of insect nests are designed to house these large groups, but each colony is made up of smaller units called families or castes.
In these social settings, there is usually a queen. The queen is the largest member of the colony and she is usually the mother of all its members. Workers make up most of the colony in these different types of insect nests, and depending on the species of insect these workers could be wingless females who forage for food and care for the young.
Males are born occasionally and usually have one important job: to mate with new queens when they’re ready to start new colonies.
Some types of insect nests are used as a structure or space where insects can live in or keep eggs safe. Some insects spend their whole lives living in these nests, while others use their nests to help protect them from predators or store food.
In order to better understand how different types of insect nests work, we must first understand the different types of insects that most commonly make these amazing and often intricate nests.
There are more than 12,000 species of ants in the world, and they are found on every continent except Antarctica. The United States has over 700 ant species, and most ants live in colonies that contain thousands of individuals.
And while it’s commonly known that ants make types of insect nests to protect themselves from the elements and predators, many people don’t realize how intricate and unique ant nests can really be.
Ants live in highly organized societies that consist of three castes: workers (sterile females), soldiers (females with large heads and powerful jaws), and queens (fertile females).
Most species of ants use their types of insect nests, sometimes called ant hills or mounds, as an entire city of sorts. We will talk more about how ants use different types of insect nests to not only survive, but thrive.
There are about 20,000 species of bees in the world! In the United States alone, there are about 4,000 native bee species. Some bees live in colonies like honey bees or bumble bees, and others live solitary lives like leafcutter bees or mason bees. A single colony can contain several hundred to tens of thousands of worker bees!
Most bee species are social, meaning they live together in colonies and share tasks for the good of the colony. In a single colony there is one queen, many female workers, and several male drones. The workers do all the work: they gather nectar and pollen, clean the hive, build combs with wax secreted from glands on their abdomens, feed the larvae, guard the hive, and take care of the queen. The drones’ only job is to mate with a new queen during her nuptial flight.
There are many different types of wasps, but they all share a few traits. While most wasps will only sting when they feel threatened, some species of wasps don’t sting at all. These non-stinging wasps are known as pollen wasps and they pollinate flowers as they go from plant to plant in search of nectar.
Most people think of social wasps when they think of wasps in general. Social wasps include yellow jackets, hornets, and paper wasps. Like bees, social wasps live in colonies that can include hundreds of individual members.
The queen—the only reproductive female in the colony—lays eggs that develop into either male or female workers. Workers forage for food and materials for types of insect nests, feed larvae, care for the queen and protect the colony from predators. When the weather begins to get cold, new queens fly off to mate and start their own colonies as the old colony dies off.
There are over 100,000 different species of wasps—probably more than any other insect group. Some authorities list as many as 4,000 species of wasps in the United States alone.
While many species of wasps do build a nest and live together, many other species are solitary. These include potter wasps, mason wasps, paper wasps, mud daubers, cicada killers and yellowjackets. Some solitary wasp species build types of insect nests or hives for their offspring to live in, while others lay eggs on plants or even on other insects like caterpillars.
We often think of termites as pests, which they certainly are. But these creatures are also unique, sophisticated and fascinating.
There are more than 2,000 species of termites in the world. Approximately 45 species of termites live in the United States. Termites live in colonies and can range from a few thousand to several million members.
Along with ants and bees, termites belong to the order Hymenoptera—an order that is composed of insects that have two pairs of wings and a narrow petiole (waist). They are social insects that live in colonies that consist of workers, soldiers, reproductives (alates) and a king and queen. Termites build types of insect nests or hives out of soil, wood or plant matter.
What To Do If You Come Across Different Types Of Insect Nests Near Your Home
Not all insects that make different types of insect nests are pests. In fact, some of them are quite beneficial to the environment.
However, if you come across an insect nest near your home or property, it’s important to identify the nest and which types of insects you are dealing with so you can properly treat the problem before it gets out of control or you wind up with a pest infestation.
The most common types of insect nests that people find in their yards include bees, wasps, ants and termites. Hornets also build nests but they are very rare unless you live near water like a lake or pond. Most hornets do not build their own ty[es of insect nests and will take over an existing one built by another insect to call their own.
Below we will give a quick rundown on some of the different types of insect nests and their characteristics so you can identify what you might be dealing with.
How To Identify A Wasp Nests
Wasps and hornets can build their nests in raptors, eaves, below ground, or in trees.
Wasp nests are surprisingly easy to identify. They have a distinctive tear-drop shape and are made of layers of chewed wood pulp interlaced with wasp saliva. The nests are built by the female wasp, who starts the nest by chewing wood and mixing it with her saliva to create a strong paper-like material. She forms it into a round shape that resembles an upside-down umbrella, creating one layer at a time. As the nest grows, it develops into the familiar tear-drop shape that is so easy to spot. Some types of insect nests can grow to be two feet across!
If you discover a wasp nest on your property, you’ll want to handle it carefully and make sure you don’t disturb the wasps. A disturbed wasp is more likely to sting and can become very aggressive if its nest is threatened or destroyed. If you want to remove the nest yourself, you should wear protective clothing and only do so at night when most of the wasps are sleeping inside the nest.
If you’ve determined that it’s safe to use a wasp spray to remove the wasp nest, cover yourself with protective clothing so none of your skin is exposed. Then use a pesticide specifically designed for getting rid of wasps (it should contain deltamethrin or another synthetic pyrethroid), and spray liberally from a distance of about 15 feet away.
You’ll want to apply one can of spray per foot diameter of the nest or more if necessary, so make sure you have enough on hand before you start spraying!
We have listed one of our favorite aerosol spray products for wasp nest removal below for you to consider.
Ortho Home Defense Hornet & Wasp Killer
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This ready-to-use formula can be sprayed from up to 20 feet away, helping you kill wasps and their nests without having to get close.
This treatment is designed for outdoor use only. The jet spray allows you to reach different types of insect nests in trees and other hard-to-reach areas, and the active ingredient is Tetramethrin (0.1%).
How To Identify A Bee Nests
Honey bee nests are made of wax as opposed to other material.
In order to identify a bee nest on your property, it’s best to look for bee activity around your home. The presence of bees flying around in the morning may indicate there is a nest somewhere nearby. Also keep an eye out for any unusual objects hanging from the eaves of buildings or trees such as old tires or broken branches that may have been used as types of insect nests by other species.
Bee nests, sometimes known as beehives, are made of cells that hold pollen and sometimes honey. Not all cells in the nest are the same, and the type of cell depends on the species of bee, though you won’t be able to tell much about a bee nest’s cells at just a glance.
If you notice what could be a bee nest on your property, watch it closely. The most telling way to identify a bee nest as opposed to other types of insect nests is by observing the entrance to the nest and watching the bees come and go. Honey bees usually make their nests in cavities or holes, such as hollow trees, behind siding, or in attics. Carpenter bees prefer to tunnel into unpainted or weathered softwoods, such as redwood, cedar, cypress or pine. The tunnels are about 1/2-inch in diameter.
Bumblebee nests may be found in abandoned rodent burrows. Other types of bees live in the ground. Their entrances are round holes about 1/4-inch in diameter leading to sandy tunnels that branch out under the soil.
If you find a bee nest on your property and want it removed, there are a few methods you can use.
The first step is to try and determine if the nest is a honeybee nest or a yellow jacket nest. This is crucial because the steps to remove them are different.
A honeybee nest will be made of wax, similar to the inside of a beehive. A yellow jacket nest will be made of paper, much like what you’d find in your walls or attic. If you’re not sure which one it is, please contact a professional for help with identification.
If it’s a honeybee nest, the best removal method is to call a professional beekeeper to remove the entire colony without chemicals. The bees are taken away unharmed and added to another beekeeper’s hives, usually for free or for a nominal fee. This means no poisons are used and the bees are transported safely to their new home with minimal damage done to their hive.
If it’s a yellow jacket nest, there are several ways to handle it yourself, including using a wasp or hornet spray like the Ortho Wasp and Hornet Spray listed above.
Aerosol wasp and hornet spray or foaming yellow jacket sprays contain pyrethrum or pyrethroids, insecticides derived from the chrysanthemum plant. Although they can be effective, these products do not kill on contact but work by coming in contact with the pests who then carry them back to the nest and infect others by brushing against each other.
You’ll need to stand at least 15 feet away when spraying, and if it’s a large nest, it could take up to a week before all of the insects die. The sprays will affect any other insects who come near the affected area as well.
Foggers, also known as insect bombs, release a cloud of pesticides into an enclosed space. However, foggers are more effective indoors because they cannot reach types of insect nests that are much higher than ground level.
How To Identify An Ant Nest
Some ant nests can be massive and obvious, while others are difficult to locate.
Ants are some of the most common pests in the United States. While they don’t carry or transmit diseases to people or pets, they can be an incredible nuisance. Getting rid of ants can be complicated, and one of the only ways to properly get rid of ants in your home or on your property is to get rid of their nest.
Ant nests are not always easy to find. They can be located underground, above ground and even in the water. There are many types of ant nests, but all ant nests have three things in common: an entrance, a network of tunnels and chambers for storing food and eggs, and a queen who will mate to produce eggs that will grow into adult ants.
Ants use their antennae, legs and mandibles to help them dig through the soil to construct their nests. The material they use may include wood, leaves or other materials they can find on the surface. Some species, such as leafcutter ants, make their nests by chewing off pieces of leaves or grass with their mandibles and using the material to build up their nest. Some types of ants may construct their nests using mud cells mixed with saliva to build up the walls and roof of their nest. This process is known as “cell building”.
Ants typically prefer dark and humid locations to build their types of insect nests, and locations that have easy access to food and water sources nearby. The size of the colony will determine how big an ant nest is, with many different types of ant nests growing over time as their colony developes.
Finding an ant nest takes a bit of detective work, and it starts by finding the ant trail left by these insects. Ant trails are paths ants leave by walking to and from their types of insect nests. The path is marked with pheromones that ants deposit on the ground as they walk.
The trails are laid down by worker ants or scout ants, and then followed by other workers who collect food and take it back to the nest. This can happen up to ten times a day, meaning that the ant trail is often visible.
Other signs of ants include tiny holes on window sills where ants leave pheromones; irregular patterns of dirt on carpets and rugs, and broken pieces of ant eggshells, dead ants or ant wings (queens shed their wings after mating). If you see these signs, it’s likely that you’re dealing with an ant nest nearby.
A good way to remove an ant nest near your home or inside your home is to set up bait stations at points around your property. These will be small and unobtrusive, and need only a few drops of ant bait to get the job done.
Place your bait stations in corridors and rooms that are known to be infested with ants, but make sure you don’t disturb them. The idea is that the ants will come across the bait station and take it back to the nest.
We have listed a quality bait station we recommend for you below for ant nest removal.
Terro Liquid Ant Bait Stations
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Terro Liquid Ant Bait Stations contain borax, which is a natural mineral used in many household products like laundry detergent. It’s not harmful to animals or people, and it is safe for the environment. It’s also EPA-registered as an insecticide and is proven to be effective against most ants found in North America.
The active ingredient in Terro Liquid Ant Bait Stations is sodium tetraborate decahydrate (the chemical name for borax). This is what kills the ants that come into contact with it. When the ants eat the bait, they bring it back to their nest where it will kill them slowly over a period of days. This allows enough time for other ants in the nest to eat some of the bait as well.
How To Identify A Termite Nest
Termite tunnels like the one shown above are often a sign you have termites nearby.
If you live in an area where termites are known to be a problem, it’s important to know how to identify a termite nest. Termites can cause serious damage to your home over time, so catching them as early as possible is crucial.
One of the first things you can look for when it comes to identifying a termite nest is discarded wings. Swarmers are mature termites that are at the breeding stage. They swarm and breed, then discard their wings.
Another sign of termites and a termite nest nearby is sawdust-like droppings. These droppings will look like fine sand or grains of rice, and if you scoop some up it should crumble easily between your fingers.
Termite nests don’t always look how you might expect. In fact, those big mud tubes hanging out of the siding are not nests at all—they’re highways that the termites use to get from the ground up into your house and back again.
The real nest is hidden deep underground, and it can be harder to spot and locate than you might realize. Here’s how to identify a termite nest:
- Identifying the colony:
There are several ways to distinguish termite mounds from an ordinary pile of dirt or other types of insect nests.
For example, most ants build their mounds aboveground, whereas subterranean termites live entirely underground. Termite mounds tend to be more symmetrical than ant mounds, with the usual shape being a cone or dome. The mound will also have holes in it that serve as air vents for the insects who live inside. If you see tunnels or holes going into the ground around the base of the mound, this is a telltale sign that you have subterranean termites on your hands.
- Identifying termites themselves:
Take a look at any winged insects flying around your house in early spring and summer—they could be swarming termites looking for a new place to nest. To identify these insects as termites (rather than harmless ants), look for a certain body type:
- A thick waist (called a “petiole”) that connects the thorax and abdomen
- Wings that are equal in size and shape
- Antennae that are straight, not bent
- A body that is smaller than an ant body
If you see these characteristics, don’t panic! It’s not necessarily bad news—termites may or may not have already begun nesting in your home. In fact, they might just be looking to relocate out of an existing nest nearby.
Still, it’s important to use proper methods to get rid of termite nests. Below is a product we recommend to help you do just that.
Bio Advanced Termite Killer
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Bio Advanced Termite Killer Granules uses Bifenthrin as its active ingredient. Bifenthrin is an artificial chemical that mimics a compound found in chrysanthemums. It attacks the insects’ nervous system, especially their muscles and joints, causing them to die within hours.
This product is a quick and effective way to get rid of termites and remove these types of insect nests when used as directed.
When using this product to get rid of termites, be sure to keep it out of reach of children and pets.
When Should You Leave Types Of Insect Nests Alone
Not all insect nests are bad. Infact, some are quite beneficial.
Some types of insect nests are fairly obvious and easily identified, like an ant colony or a beehive.
But other types of insect nests can be hard to distinguish from the surrounding environment. While there are plenty of insect nests out there that are not ideal to have near your home, there are also some types of insects and insect nests that you may want to consider leaving alone.
If They Are Just Hanging Out:
Some insects do not appear to build the types of insect nests that we would recognize, but they do have homes. Take the ladybug for example: these little beetles will often live in colonies under logs or rocks in your yard. If they happen to make their home near your house, they won’t cause any trouble as long as they stay outside.
If They Are Doing Good Work:
There are many insects who eat other bugs you don’t want around, such as aphids and mosquitoes! Different types of insects and types of insect nests often help get rid of certain pests. Other insects help pollinate plants and keep your garden healthy and beautiful.
Some beneficial insects you might want to keep around include honey bees, bumble bees, paper wasps, and even yellow jackets!
If You’re Not Sure:
If you’re not sure what types of insect nests you’re dealing with, it may be best to simply observe it and leave it alone unless it’s causing damage to your property that needs immediate attention.
Some species of insects only live for a short time before dying off naturally while others will stay there year after year. It’s best if you are able to find out what type of insect nests you’re dealing with before taking any action against them!
Have you come across any types of insect nests you’d like help identifying? Tell us about it 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.