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Baldfaced Hornets Are More Docile Yellowjackets

By Chris Williams on August 13, 2013.
Baldfaced hornet upclose

A baldfaced hornet

Question

My son was stung by a big black and white bee or wasp. He killed it so we know it looks like a yellowjacket and has similar markings except instead of black and yellow, it’s black and white. Do you know what it is and where it nests?

Answer

It’s always best to see the actual specimen, but I think you are dealing with the baldfaced hornet. It’s our only black and white wasp that fits that description. In fact, the baldfaced hornet technically is a yellowjacket with some similar habits and some important differences.

“Hornet” has such a threatening connotation, but baldfaced hornets are not as aggressive as yellowjackets and don’t sting as readily. Your son probably accidentally crushed the wasp or, unknown to him, was somehow threatening the nest. Baldfaced hornet nests are usually (but not always) high up in trees. You often don’t even know the nest is there until fall when the leaves drop. Then you can see the large, pear-shaped gray mass hanging from a branch. The nest is made up of layers of combs covered by a paper envelope. By the time you notice the nest in fall or winter, the hornets have died or are dying and they will not reuse the same nest next year.

When the nest is in a tree, there’s usually no control required; it’s best to leave it alone since the hornets won’t bother you if you don’t bother them. Baldfaced hornets only require control on the rare occasions when they build their nests closer to the ground in shrubbery, under eaves, or in an attic or shed. If the nest is in a place where people, especially children, or pets could unknowingly threaten the nest, the hornets may react aggressively.

Baldfaced hornets are less likely than yellowjackets to go after people foods, so they don’t usually buzz about when you are barbecuing on your deck. They’re actually beneficial insects since they capture insects (often yellowjackets) to feed to their larvae. Baldfaced hornets are usually so busy going about their business that they are rarely seen. People are surprised when they realize that, unbeknownst to them, there was a nest of several hundred hornets right in their yard.

Give Colonial a call. We can have our technicians conduct an inspection of your property to see if they can spot the hornets’ nest site. If it’s in a problem area and if it’s accessible, we can remove the nest and the hornets.

Photo credit: Rob Swatski / Foter / CC BY-NC

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