How to Identify Ground Wasp Nests

The thought of wasp nests probably conjures up images of a hanging structure or one that’s nestled into the eaves of a building. However, several species build in ground wasp nests. Here’s what you need to know about ground wasp identification if you think you may have one on your property.

What Kind of Wasp Has Nests in the Ground?

In the United States, there are primarily three types of wasps that prefer to make their home underground:

Let’s take a closer look at how to identify each one and why you should.

Ground Wasp Identification

Accurate identification will help you avoid dangerous situations. For example, the yellow jacket is highly aggressive, so you should exercise even more cautious than you would when dealing with its more docile cousins. Accurate identification will also help determine whether or not you have a species that builds in ground wasp nests.


The yellow jacket has highly distinguishable black and yellow or white stripes going down its body, while the great golden digger wasp has a black and orange pattern. The eastern cicada killer wasp is characterized by a black abdomen with three yellow rings, pale red legs, and brown wings.


Size is another way to distinguish these three species. While the eastern cicada has rather muted colors, it stands out due to its large body. This predator can grow to up to two inches in length.

Solitary vs. Social

It’s also vital to note that wasps can be either solitary or social. The solitary type builds a nest only for itself and its larvae. Social wasps, on the other hand, have a colony type structure that includes a queen and workers. You may find both solitary and social wasp nests in the ground, the latter being much more problematic for homeowners than the former.

How to Find Ground Wasp Nests

Finding a group wasp nest is more challenging than finding a hanging nest, but it’s not impossible. You use the same method to find underground nests as you would any other. Observe the flight of the wasps to identify their movement patterns. Where are they coming from? Careful observation should reveal the nest location, though you may not be able to see it.

Killing Wasp Nests in Ground

Once you’ve found its location (or probable location), you’ll probably want to know how to kill a wasp nest on the ground. Despite the wealth of DIY wasp removal tutorials available online, it’s best to leave extermination to the professionals. A pest control expert has the know-how and equipment to treat the nest with powerful insecticide dust safely.

Once treatment has been completed, the nest should be left open if it belonged to social wasps. Leaving it open allows workers to return to the nest and come in contact with the pesticides. You should keep your distance during this time because the wasps will become agitated when they realize that their nest has been disturbed.

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