Spraying Hornets with Water – Does it Really Work?

In theory, water is supposed to kill all types of bugs because of how they breathe – they get their oxygen from their "skin". But spraying hornets with water doesn’t seem to be taking the pest control world by storm. That’s because you’re missing one simple ingredient – soap.

Spraying Hornets with Water – Does it Really Work?

Hornets don't just die when they're exposed to regular water. CC Image courtesy of Richard Bartz on Wikipedia

Is using water really a good idea?

Generally, when you’re going to try to kill hornets with just plain water, it won’t end well for you.

Top Bee and Hornet Killing Solutions

Water set in room temperature can destroy the hornets’ nest to some degree, but it doesn’t do much else. Not only will spraying hornets anger them and make them aggressively attack you, the survivors of this “water treatment” can just come back and build another nest.

You see, even though water can drown bugs, tiny doses don’t affect them. Hornets, like all insects, have waxy exoskeletons that repel water. This wax acts like an impenetrable shield against some forms of liquids. So when plain water is sprayed on hornets, it reacts like how it does when you pour droplets on top of a leaf. It forms into clumps and just slides off.

Hosing the bugs down isn’t a good idea either. This destroys the part of the house that the nest is attached to, and it also provokes the hornets to attack you even more.

In short, plain old water set in room temperature does little to stop hornets. However, if you manage to combine it with soap, you’ll get a very different result.

Soap allows water to kill hornets

Regular water is only useful as a treatment if it’s scalding hot or if it has soap in it.

According to Honey Bee Suite, soap can kill hornets and even other insects because it’s a surfactant. It’s a substance that lowers the surface tension between the water and anything it hits. So fundamentally, it’s a wetting agent that makes water a lot… well, wetter.

We know how soap, specially dish soap, can get rid of greasy things in our kitchen. So when you combine it with water and spray it on hornets, it breaks down the resistance put up by the insects’ protective wax covering and allows water to enter inside their bodies, killing them slowly.

To see it up close, here’s a somewhat dramatic video of how water affects paper wasps, insects that are closely similar to hornets in their family tree.

How to Kill Hornets with Soapy Water

If you’d like to try the soapy water treatment, there are only two things that you have to keep in mind:

  • Never approach nests without wearing a safety gear which is in this case, a beekeeper’s suit. Don’t take any chances. Hornets are more hostile than bees and other types of wasps, they can sting multiple times and will not hesitate to follow you.
  • Dish soap or laundry work best since they’re formulated to get rid of oil. Remember that other soaps are oil-based, so they won’t do much to your hornet problem.​

So what’s the lesson here? Always keep in mind that spraying hornets with water only works if soap is in the equation. And if you can’t use this method for some reason, there are plenty of other ones to try.

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