Bald-Faced Hornet ~ Dolichovespula maculata

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This one was right next to our garage. We felt they were of no danger to us… We also wanted the nest for a garage decoration when they were done with it!!Bald Face Hornet The ‘clean-shaved’ face of a bald-faced hornet!

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.

The life-cycle work like this. Workers are killed by frosts in the fall. The fertilized females (future queens) hibernate in barns, attics and other sheltered places. The queen by herself starts a nest in a new location in the spring.

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.

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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

32 thoughts on “Bald-Faced Hornet ~ Dolichovespula maculata

  1. oh boy… that’s the post for me :o) we still have the nest in our tree, it’s too high… think we have to cut the whole branch to remove it … I feel sorry for my tree, but with our drama-queen-neighbor, there is no other chance :o(

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    • You could prove to the neighbor the nest is done being used this year. Not sure if you could see the top of mine, but it is very ‘ratty’ from the rain and elements hitting it and the occupants not providing home repair. Sooner or later, it will just fall out of the tree.
      Some folks just need to stay inside!

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  2. What a really interesting nest. I’ve never seen one that shape here in Australia. I find hornets a fascinating topic of study so I enjoyed reading about this one which is new to me. Thanks! 🙂

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    • These tend to be hidden, until fall, when all the leaves are out of the trees. I’ve learned a bunch writing this post. Many times clients want us to remove them during the winter and even tho I tell them they are gone, they insist on us doing it. Fine, more money for us!

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  3. It really is difficult to know what to do with a wasp nest that is on the patio or right over the front door. Well, not difficult for my husband. Just difficult for the wasps. 😦

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  4. Hornet stings really hurt! I was pruning and came on one of those round paper nests in my hedge and wham! Hurt for two weeks! Then I got stung by a yellow jacket. I like the idea they are lowering the winter moth population maybe, although we still seems to have an infestation this year. You are a font of interesting info!

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  5. Very interesting. Until this fall, I’d never seen a nest like this before. I discovered it high in the tree in our front yard while I was cleaning up for the winter. Like yours, it was obviously empty because it had a huge hole in the bottom.
    … come to think of it, that might also explain the unusually high traffic in blue jays in the preceding couple of weeks.

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    • It’s really interesting to me to hear your nest has the same hole. I feel like I am a fairly good researcher… When I can’t find info on the Web about a situation, I am either researching a topic waaay above my head or whatever I’m researching doesn’t have much research done on the topic. I feel this is the latter. No one has captured in photos or video of a blue Jay doing this. However, there are birds in the tropics (woodpeckers if I recall) that eat large wasps right off their nests. They don’t attack the whole thing, just snack daily. Ah, will the wonders of the world ever cease? I hope not! !

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