- Common Name(s): Bald-faced Hornet, White-faced Hornet
- Order: Hymenoptera
- Family: Vespidae
- Common Species: Dolichovespula maculata
- Commonly Confused With: Yellow Jackets, Other Wasps
How to Identify?
The Bald-faced hornet is black and white on the head (first section of an insect), thorax (middle section of an insect), and abdomen (back section of an insect). They have a very tight “wasp waist” (very pinched waist) connecting the abdomen to the thorax. The typical workers are roughly 1.3 cm in size and the queens are slightly larger at 1.6-1.9 cm in size.
Where do they live?
Bald-faced hornets live in dry, safe areas: on tree branches, the eaves of homes, under porches, etc. Their nest is the iconic paper nest which has a singular opening towards the bottom (but not on the direct bottom) like the one pictured below. They are usually gray and more durable than European hornet nests.
What do they eat?
The adults of these wasps can eat nectar, fruit, or other insects. The larvae (juveniles) of these wasps eat regurgitated food, usually insects, directly given to them by the female workers.
What do they do?
These insects are not a threat unless they have a nest of which you are unaware. The most common issue with bald-faced hornets is that they can build nests on homes or home attachments, and they are very protective of the nest. If you happen to disturb one of these nests, move quickly and swiftly away from the area while avoiding sudden or jerking movements, like flailing! Avoid trying to wait them out by jumping into a body of water (such as a pool or lake); they won’t go away but will wait for you to come up for air and then proceed to sting you (possibly even to death).
A new queen bald-faced hornet survives through the winter and starts a new nest every year. She starts the nest by herself until she has a sufficient number of workers who can take over the process for her! That nest will die over the winter, a new queen will be born, and the cycle will repeat!
Author: G. Wyatt West– B.S.E.S University of Georgia 2017; Board Certified Entomologist
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