Bald-faced hornets, also called bald hornet, white-faced hornet, white-tailed hornet, blackjacket, and bull wasp, are actually part of the yellowjacket family and not a true hornet (genus Vespa). Colonies contain 400 to 700 workers and they build a hanging paper nest. Workers aggressively defend their nest by repeatedly stinging invaders. However, the bald-faced hornet is less aggressive compared to yellowjacket wasps.
Nests are build out of paper. The bald-faced hornet makes its paper by chewing tiny pieces of wood and mixing the pulp with saliva in their mouths. The wet paper paste is then patted, pulled and stretched to form rows of cells, to make the honeycomb. When the pulp dries, it becomes paper—somewhat like the paper your newspaper is made of.
Bald-faced hornets are beneficial; They prey on soft-bodied insects including caterpillars and aphids. They harvest nectar (carbohydrates) and pollen (protein) from flowering plants. They are attracted to meats just like the yellowjackets… Unfortunately, they can be a potential health hazard to people allergic to their stings.
The nest by the garage was progressing quite nicely, until our return from our Labor Day trip. There was a larger than normal hole at the bottom that wasn’t there when we left and there was no activity now. We waited a few more weeks to be fairly sure no one was truly home. The nest was easily retrieved by climbing on top of our trailer and clipping the branch.
The top was a bit ratty, as the hornets weren’t there to keep up on the repairs from the hard rains. There was a body that fell out while we looked into the nest.
I began to research what could have caused the hole and where all the bald-faced hornets went. The branch was a bit too weak to have an animal (raccoon, possum, or skunk) out on the limb and the hole was too small to be an animal also. I’ve watched YouTube videos of racoons taking the whole darn thing! I started thinking smaller and came to a conclusion it had to be a bird. It took a bit more digging to find out bluejays and other birds, are fans of bald-faced hornet larvae. Their feathers are thick enough to prevent them from being stung.
Note the ‘ratty’ top of the nest. This is because there was no ‘home improvement’ being done as no one was home.
© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl