The bald faced hornet is actually a wasp, not a hornet. This variety of social wasp is similar to the yellow jacket. Like the yellow jacket, the bald faced hornets have a Queen whose entire purpose is to reproduce for the colony. The most obvious difference between the yellow jacket and the bald faced hornet is their coloring. The yellow jacket is bright yellow with black markings, while the bald faced hornet is black with white markings. The white markings are on the front of the head, and some at the end of the abdomen. The coloring alone makes the bald faced hornet stand out more than any other wasp. The body of the bald faced hornet is about three fourths of an inch long. Another similarity the yellow jacket and the bald faced hornet have is that they can sting a person repeatedly. Unlike most bees their stinger is smooth and will not break off, and can be used over and over again to sting people.
The bald faced hornet colony is made up of the Queen, workers, drones, and new Queens. Their life cycle is also similar to the yellow jackets. Within the colony the workers protect the Queen, and work for her so she can reproduce. The workers are also in charge of foraging for food for everyone in the colony to eat. Bald faced hornets eat nectar, sap, honeydew, and over ripe fruit. Of course the worker bald faced hornet does more than watch over the Queen and find food, they are the busiest of all the bald faced hornets.
In most cases another duty that the worker usually has is stinging people, since the Queen stays safe inside the nest the workers are there to sting anyone or anything that may bother them. However, being stung by a bald faced hornet can for the most part be avoided. Bald faced hornets only sting a person when they feel threatened or their space has been invaded. The invasion of space usually occurs when a person tries to approach a bald faced hornet nest. They are very protective of their nests, and if a person comes within three feet of the nest the bald faced hornet will become defensive and start to attack. One job that a worker bald faced hornet has is to guard and protect the nest, so imagine how territorial they are. Not only that, but there can be up to 800 bald faced hornets in the nest at one time. You wouldn’t want to be the one to invade their space and upset 800 bald faced hornets.
The nest itself is made up of small pieces of wood particles that the bald faced hornets chew up; and a chemical in their saliva turns the wood into a paper like substance. The worker bald faced hornets then use the paper like material to build the nest. The nest can grow as round as a basketball while maintaining the shape of a football, it has up to four layers of combs, and one entry hole at the bottom. Often times the bald faced hornets nest are made within trees, shrubs, meadows, forest edges, and or gardens. Sometimes the nest will be made closer to people like in the sides of buildings, utility poles, under roof overhangs, under decks or porches, sheds, wall voids, and or crawlspaces. With these locations there is a higher risk of a person coming in contact with a bald faced hornet, so homeowners need to be aware of these spots as possible nest locations. Check these areas of your home; if you see any type of nest it is best to call your local pest control company out to handle the nest. Only professionals should handle the removal of the nest, it can be very risky to do yourself. No one wants to be the one to invade a bald faced hornet’s space and risk being stung multiple times.
Pictures courtesy of www.creativecommons.org