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FLORIDA HORNETS
A source for information on hornets
Bald-faced Hornet Dolichovespula maculata

 

Size:

About 1 inch in length.

Color:

Bluish-black with white markings on its face, thorax and abdomen.

Behavior:

Bald-faced hornets are not true hornets at all; they are aerial yellow jackets. This hornet constructs paper nests made from wood harvested from logs and trees. The nest of the bald-faced hornet will take on a football shape, growing larger with time. Some nests may measure up to two feet in length and contain hundreds of worker wasps. The nests last one year. Each year in the fall, a hornet nest produces numerous queens that fly out to find a protected site (e.g., under loose bark) to overwinter. The following spring, each queen finds a suitable site in a tree or shrub to begin constructing her nest. She forms a small paper nest inside in which she builds a paper "comb" and raises her first brood of larvae. The workers that emerge from that brood begin foraging for food, enlarging the nest, caring for the young and defending the colony. Hornets will aggressively attack and sting any intruder threatening or disturbing the nest.

Bald-faced hornets normally construct their nests on the branches of trees and shrubs. Nests may be 20 feet or higher in a tree, but more likely will be closer to the ground within 10 to 12 feet. This hornet has been known to construct its nests on the sides of homes, although it does not locate its nest inside the voids of buildings as does its close cousin, the yellow jacket.

Hornets and yellow jackets should only be controlled by an experienced professional. The danger of stings is considerable, especially when proper protective clothing and equipment are not worn. The body of the bald-faced hornet is black in color and their faces are marked with white. Bald-faced hornets are larger than most wasps.

The nest of the bald-faced hornet can be found hanging from trees, bushes and buildings. A colony begins in spring, when a queen lays a single egg inside each cell as she begins to build her nest. She puts insects and nectar into the cell with the egg. These eggs hatch into larvae, eventually becoming workers that help to further expand the nest.

A bald-faced hornet nest can grow to be as large as a basketball within a number of months. As many as 700 workers may live in the nest. Males appear late in the summer. The males fertilize some of the newly developed females. These fertilized females look for places to hibernate as cold weather approaches. They will be the next season’s queens. The remaining members of the nest perish in winter.

While bald-faced hornets do prey upon other pests and can prove beneficial, their nests should not be permitted to develop near a home. Workers are protective and aggressive when disturbed. Nests should not be handled without the assistance of a pest control professional.

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