Friday, October 9, 2015

Bald Faced Hornets

Living in the country brings all sorts of new discoveries and interesting finds on an almost daily basis. My big find this summer has been a large bald faced hornet nest. Did you know bald faced hornets are not hornets at all? They are actually yellow jackets, tho they have only black and white for coloring. Read this link as it is short and very informative.
I used to walk around a long trail on nearby Fort Campbell and once while walking, my friend spotted an old bald faced hornet's nest in the woods. We were quite a distance from it so I was not able to see it up close. There were no live hornets in the nest since we were walking during the winter so I wish I could've seen it up close. I must say she had a good eye to catch sight of it at all. That particular nest was in the middle of a forest quite a long distance from the road we were walking on. Therefore it was never a problem for anyone and we simply observed it from afar.
Our particular hornet's nest is quite a distance from our home and is located about 10 feet up in a maple tree. I was riding by the tree one day in June when I spied the nest. I immediately came back to the house and did a Google search to discover what kind of 'bees' the built these kinds of nests. Come to find out these are not bees at all, not hornets, and not wasps, but yellow jackets. And they are beneficial yellow jackets. The bald faced hornets actually eat protein in the form of other yellow jackets, flies, and any other unwary insects it can find. I can tell you from the two severe paper wasp stings I have received this summer these bald faced hornets need to eat more stinging insects!! An occupational hazard of being a gardener is while digging or weeding in the garden one might disturb a paper wasp nest and boy oh boy do those stings ever hurt. Despite riding by this nest daily and sitting below it to observe the activity, I have never actually seen one of the bald faced hornets flying around my garden. I read somewhere that they mainly stay well above ground level and the level of people. What a relief!
Since Mr. Fix-it and I mainly garden for nature, and since these insects will not harm us unless provoked, and since the nest is a long way from where we live and play, we have left this nest alone. Once a hard freeze or two hits all of the hornets in this nest should either be gone or dead. It will be at that time that I plan to cut the nest out of the tree and place it on my porch. I am hoping its presence will scare away other yellow jackets come next summer. This year we had no less than five red wasp nests up under the porch attached to the brick and vinyl siding! I was not really quick enough or aware enough to realize wasps were building nests near and on the house. Once I realized the problem the red wasps were promptly disposed of because they will sting unprovoked and their very location made them quite dangerous. Once you spray the wasps you must remove the nest or they will return to the nest. I did not know this at first but quickly learned it when the wasps returned. The area the red wasps built their nests was near our dogs and those dogs had some issues with the wasps. Yikes. I'll take bald faced hornets over paper wasps and red wasps any day!
The nest is a fascinating thing to observe-from a distance. There is almost constant activity around the nest but not so much that it can be compared to a bee hive where bees are constantly buzzing around the entrance to their hive. These yellow jackets are fairly large and can easily be seen when they fly away and return. I only wonder what the inside looks like on a busy day. The nest is a thing of beauty....

in the garden....

Words and Photos Property of In the Garden Blog Team, In the Garden


  1. I live at the edge of town with plenty of houses around. We have had one of these nests in our garden up in a maple tree. I didn't even know it until the leaves fell off the tree. These hornets won't bother you. As you say their nests are a work of art. They are usually up so high I couldn't get one down. I too would love to see the tunnels etc in the nest, to see how they get around and care for their charges.

  2. Was neat to see this nest in person with you! I was a bit shy of it though as I have been stung to the point of getting hives. Ha, made a pun and was not trying... I am glad to know they are good friends to the garden....

  3. "from a distance" - that's the key! Nature is an unending education :)

  4. Fascinating! I don't know much about bees & wasps so to be informed is to be forwarned.. Thanks Tina....:)