Thursday, September 5, 2013

Baldfaced Hornets: Nest Like a Paper Tornado

Baldfaced hornets are becoming more obvious in yards and parks as their nests and colonies have grown over the summer. Actually a form of yellow jacket wasp, these hornets build nests above ground, usually attached to branches in trees and shrubs.
Baldfaced hornet nest, empty of hornets and no longer attached to the tree.

If one of these colonies is in your yard, you are not alone! UGA's "Stinging and Biting Pests" tells that these colonial insects actually have a broad distribution, having been found in 46 states.

The hornets are fairly large, mostly black, and have, as described in the UGA publication, "white or light yellowish markings on the face, thorax and part of the abdomen."

In the section about controlling these insects, the publication explains, "Most social bees, wasps and hornets are beneficial and should not be controlled unless their nest and activities are close to humans and create a hazard."

Clemson's publication about Baldfaced Hornets points out that these insects act defensively to protect their nests: "Most social wasps vigorously defend their nests from perceived threats. Baldfaced hornets are known for their defensive behavior. People are often stung when they accidentally stumble upon a hidden nest or when the nest is located in areas adjacent to homes or places where there is human activity."

The hornets do have significant redeeming value. Clemson's publication opens with this positive note: "In nature, baldfaced hornets are extremely valuable because they kill many pests including flies, caterpillars, and spiders."

If removing a colony of baldfaced hornets is deemed necessary, it is recommended that a pest-control company be hired, since the task is fairly hazardous. However, all the hornets except new queens will die in winter, at which time a nest that has been left alone may be removed and disposed of safely.