A hornet, a type of wasp, is classified in the genus Vespa. The average size of a hornet is 1.25 inches and the normal lifespan is only 1 to 4 months. They live in nests—not hives, which are formed by bees. Hornets create a nest by chewing on wood until it becomes as soft as paper. They use this material to construct a nest that is either round or oval in shape. If you find a hornets' nest on your property, you may preserve it using caution and a few easy-to-find items.
Wait until the first hard freeze to collect the hornets' nest. According to Iowa State University, hornets abandon their nests in fall and do not return until spring. Wear gloves in case one or two hornets remain in the nest.
Hang your hornets' nest in a cool dry garage for a month or two. It is best not to bring it directly in to the house since a few carcasses will most likely remain in the nest and cause a foul odor. As the carcasses dry up, the smell will go away.
Set your hornets' nest on a sheet of newspaper. Spray the nest with a clear polyurethane spray. Although hornets' nests do not need to be sprayed if hung in a dry place where no one will touch them, it is best to add a coating that will protect the nests when displayed in a school or museum where children are allowed to examine them.
Wait for the polyurethane spray to dry on the hornets' nest before hanging it or setting it in a display case.
Those with known allergies to the stings of bees and wasps should not attempt to remove a hornets' nest.