Bald-faced Hornet

Dolichovespula maculata

Copyright, J. N. Dell

Bald-faced Hornets are common tree-nesting wasps. They grow to 3/4 inch long.

These hornets are easy to recognize because of their color pattern. The head, thorax, abdomen, and antennae are black and white. Wings are smoky.

Bald-faced Hornet nests are usually found in meadows, forest edges, gardens, and parks.

Nests are made by chewing up strips of wood and mixing it with sticky saliva. One nest may hold up to 700 hornets.

Jerry A. Payne, USDA ARS

Copyright, Whitney Cranshaw

Copyright, Whitney Cranshaw

A nest is started by one female, which will become its queen. In the spring, she begins the nest by making a few cells (little round rooms) out of paper in a tree or shrub, anywhere from 2 to 40 feet from the ground. She then lays an egg in each cell. When young wasp larvae hatch, the queen feeds them. Larva are fed chewed up insects.

When larvae are big enough, they pupate (resting stage). They soon emerge as adult female workers.

Workers take over all nest duties, and the queen's only job now is to lay more eggs. Workers build new layers of cells onto the nest, collect food, feed larvae, and protect the nest.

Throughout the summer, the nest gets bigger, until it's about the size of a basketball. All of the new hornets are female workers.

At the end of summer, or in early Fall, the queen lays eggs which will become females and males. These insects mate, and then all of the nest's hornets die (including the old queen), except the females who have mated.

Mated females overwinter and start their own nests next Spring. They often burrow into an old tree stump to survive the cold.

Old nests are abandoned. You can see old nests in Winter, hanging in trees when leaves have fallen.

Copyright, Tom Murray

Edward L. Manigault, Clemson University Donated Collection

Nests are interwoven with branches and twigs. This makes sure they are strong and don't get destroyed by weather. The entrance hole is near the bottom of the nest.

Adult Bald-faced Hornets eat flower nectar, fruit juice, sap, and insects. Workers kill many insects and chew them up to feed larvae.

Predators of adult hornets include birds, spiders, frogs, mantids, and other insect predators.

Nests are preyed upon by Raccoons. Fox and Striped Skunk will also raid them if they're close to the ground. These mammals usually rip them open in the fall, when nests aren't as active. They eat adults, pupae, and larvae.

Copyright, Chris Wirth

Copyright, Steve Scott

At left, a Bald-faced Hornet worker eats sap from an oak tree. Above, insect prey is captured.

Copyrigh 2002, Kenn Wingle

Old hornet nests are good Winter shelter for other insects and spiders. Birds will take them apart, looking for them.

Walls of a large nest are two inches thick. This makes the nest are insulated from heat and cold.

Rita Parkins

Additional Media

Description
Type
Credit
Interactive Bald-faced Hornet's Nest
Link to Website
United Exterminating Company

Relationships in Nature:

FOOD/PREY
PREDATORS
SHELTER
OTHER

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Great Crested Flycatcher

American Sycamore

Spined Micrathena SP

Crane Fly

Goldenrod Spider

American Elm

Blue Bottle Fly

Big Brown Bat

Red Maple

Clouded Sulphur

Chinese Mantid

Smooth Sumac

Differential Grasshopper

Bullfrog

Spicebush

Dogday Harvestfly

Five-lined Skink

Flowering Dogwood

Eastern Tent Caterpillar Moth

Striped Skunk

Green Hawthorn

Field Cricket

Raccoon

Willow Oak

Giant Willow Aphid

Red Fox

Mockernut Hickory

Luna Moth

Blue Jay

Yellow Poplar

Painted Lady

Green Darner

Sweetgum

Pipevine Swallowtail

Spined Micrathena

Sassafras

Virginia Pine Sawfly

American Toad

Silver Maple

True Katydid

Black Locust

Goldenrod

Black Oak

Common Milkweed

American Beech

Common Dandelion

Virginia Rose

Evergreen Blackberry

Buttonbush

Relationship to Humans:

Bald-faced Hornets are very protective of their nest. If threatened, hornests will sting repeatedly. Great care should be taken before trying to remove a nest. Hornets will sometimes build nests around people, such as under house eaves and gutters, or on power or telephone poles.

 
SCIENTIFIC CLASSIFICATION

KINGDOM
Animal
PHYLUM
Arthropod
CLASS
Insect
ORDER
Hymenoptera
FAMILY
Vespidae
GENUS
Dolichovespula
SPECIES
Dolichovespula maculata

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