Baldfaced hornets are large, black insects about 7/8 of an inch long with white to cream-colored markings on the front of the head and at the end of the abdomen. Hornets are beneficial predators that feed on other insects, particularly flies. A colony lasts only 1 year. Each nest is built from scratch each year and the previous year’s nest can not be reused. Queens are the only members of the colony able to survive the winter. In April or May, each queen selects a suitable location, constructs a small nest, and begins raising sterile offspring.
Colony growth is slow at first but growth increases rapidly by mid-summer. The peak population is 100 to 400 hornets by the end of the summer. In the fall, males and new queens are produced. These leave the nest, mate, and the fertilized queens hibernate. The remainder of the workers, the old queen, and the males die of old age or freezing temperatures.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Baldfaced hornets are large, black insects about 7/8 of an inch long with white to cream-colored markings on the front of the head. They are mostly active in daytimes.
The hornet colony is contained inside a paper-like nest. Hornet nests are usually attached to a tree branch but may be attached to shrubs, utility poles, or house siding. The nest is composed of 3 or 4 tiers of combs within a thick, multilayered outer shell. Nests may grow to the size of a basketball very quickly. A single opening at the bottom allows the hornets to fly in and out. Hornets are very protective of their colony and will usually attack if someone approaches within 3 feet of the nest.
Do not disturb the nest. Bald face hornets have a painful sting and will sting repeatedly until the nest is deemed to be safe once more. If you have nests located along a high traffic area, such as by a door or along a walkway, seek professional help in treating and removing the nest.
If attempting to handle the nest yourself, wear a thick jacket, hat, and gloves. Tuck pant legs into long socks and remove the nest at night or very early morning. This ensures the majority of hornets are in the nest, and the activity level is much lower due to cooler temperatures.
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