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Wasp nest identification

How to find Wasp Nests, what to look for

Wasp nest identification is fairly straightforward when you know what to look for. We have written a few notes below to help you identify and find wasp nests. Please take a few moments to watch the video, this will help you know what signs to look out for.

Wasp nest identification

The first thing to establish is what exactly is happening? What can you see?
Once a wasp nest is fully established (mid summer) it will be quite apparent where the nest entrance is, there will be a constant stream of wasps to and from the nest.
In the case of common wasps, normally the actual nest is not visible, it will just be a hole in the fascia or soffit board or shed wall etc, the nest will be hidden away behind the visible entrance. To identify that it is indeed wasps, stand a watch for a while, you will see wasps arrive at the nest entrance and disappear into the nest (or into a hole) and wasps will emerge from the nest and fly off.

This video shows what to look for when identifying wasps nests.

Locating wasp nests, what to look for.

If you are constantly harassed by wasps when out in your garden, then it is most likely the case that a nest is close by OR there is a food source which scout wasps have found and relayed the position of this food source back to the nest. Wasps will seek out sweet foods and dead flesh. Lyme trees are also a major problem as they are dripping in sweet sap.
Wasps do swarm feed, so if a foraging wasp has found a source of food, it will go back to the nest to recruit other wasps to join in feeding, so in a very short space of time one wasp can become hundreds. If you are constantly harassed by wasps in your garden, identify the problem, such as sweet foods lying about, or dead flesh in bins. Wasps will also look for dead wood as a source for nesting material, if you have lots of wasps stripping wood from fence panels or shed walls and they are becoming a problem, treat the affected area with Cuprinol.
If you are certain that a nest is present, simply standing and watching for a few minutes is normally enough to establish the flight lines and determine where the main activity is concentrated, this is where the nest will be located.

A large wasp nest will have a substantial amount of traffic arriving too and leaving the nest at any one time. The first obvious place to look is on yours and your neighbour’s roof, pay particular attention to the fascia and soffit area’s. Very often as fascia board and soffit boards become old and worn, sometimes the ends of the boards rot away and provide gaps where wasps can gain entry into the loft space. Also this is often the place where TV & electrical cables enter the house and small gaps are left around the cables when they were installed.

If a good inspection of the roof fails to provide a result, the next obvious place to look would be garden sheds and garages. A basic visual inspection from outside will normally be enough to establish if a nest is present or not.

Do wasps build nests indoors?

If you are finding wasps inside your house on a daily basis, there is a chance that you may have a wasp nest within the building. Very often wasps find their way into the house from the loft space through small gaps and cracks in cupboards and also badly fitting loft hatches. We have noticed over recent years that wasps are also attracted to “Down lights”, these particular lighting systems also tend to show light into the loft space as well as the room they are intended to illuminate, the wasps are attracted to the light and fall through the small gap between the light bulb and the metal casing.

Wasps CAN and DO build there nests inside houses, we have treated wasp nests in bedroom cupboards, nests that have been coming through living room ceilings and many others that are in equally surprising locations.

Do wasps build nests underground?

Locating wasp nests in the ground is slightly more difficult, simply because very often the hole is partially covered or camouflage with leaves and other ground debris. However, if wasps can be seen on a regular basis coming and going in a certain area, then a few minutes just watching and following them can reveal where the nest is,
A few examples of other places where wasps are likely to nest are: old compost heaps/bins, garden walls, under deformed tiles on roofs, kids playhouses, holes in trees, under patio slabs, bird boxes, coal bunkers, air bricks, wall cavities etc.

Swarming wasps?

wasp nest identification

Wasps do not swarm like bees. If you can see a mass of insects hanging from a tree branch or gathered on a wall, fascia etc then this is a swarm of honey bees.
Bees do swarm at certain times of the year and can be a problem when they take up residence in your garden or house. Please read our page on bee removal to see how they can be safely re-homed.
We also have a comprehensive list of honey bee swarm collectors within the UK.
Bee collectors are more than happy to come out and collect a swarm of bees and take them away, they are only a phone call away.
Please be aware that most honey beekeeper or bee swarm collectors do not remove or rehome bumble bees. You can easily identify bumble bees by their furry appearance as illustrated in the image below.

identify bumble bees

Common Wasps

English wasps (Vespa Vulgaris) also known as the Common Wasp, generally build their nests inside something, this can be a roof space/loft, garden shed, inside an air brick or even in the ground, it is very common to find common wasp nests in disused vole and rabbit burrows. Basically they build their nests anywhere that they find suitable and where it is protected from the elements and is undisturbed.
At the end of the year when the frosts arrive any fruit that has been edible starts to perish quickly and as human activity changes, wasps start to starve as food becomes increasingly hard to find. Wasps need food with a high energy (sugar) content to maintain flight. Flying takes a lot of energy. As the food sources disappear, the adult worker wasps start to die off.
The new queen wasps will already be in hibernation by this time, ready to emerge and start the whole process again in the spring.
These new queen wasps build a completely brand new nest and the whole process starts again. Nests from previous years are never re-used.

German Wasps

German wasps (Vespula Germanica) also known as the European wasp are slightly larger than the English wasp and they build their nests in bushes, trees and hedgerows and at a first glance the nest resembles a grey football. The nest itself is made in exactly the same way as the common wasp nest, using chewed wood and saliva to make a papier mache material. The nest material is strong, lightweight and surprisingly waterproof.

How to find wasp nests