Bald Faced Hornets
Bald faced hornets are brave and ready for battle.


The bald faced hornets, like other social wasps and hornets, are capable of producing an extremely painful sting. Fortunately, the stinger does not become embedded in the skin like it does with honey bee workers. In most situations, their main objective of is to protect their site, so stings typically occur when their colony is disturbed. Bald faced hornets are highly protective of their colony and they will attack if a human or family pet approaches within a couple of feet of the nest. When these hornets sting, it injects a venomous fluid under the skin and they have a smooth stinger, which allows them to sting more than once. The only way to avoid being stung is to remove the nest, which can be extremely dangerous so the task of removing the nest should be left to pest control professionals.


Bald faced hornets are also known as a white-faced hornet. They are not a true hornet, but more closely related to yellow jackets. This type of hornet is characterized by the white markings on the front of the head and at the end of the abdomen. The body is black and they typically measure in size from 13 to 20 millimeters and the queen is the largest in the nest. The face is mostly white with very dark eyes and the front wings are folded lengthwise while it is at rest. The antennae are easily seen and this type of hornet is often mistaken for a type of bee. The workers are covered in “hair”, while the queen is hairless.


The diet of bald faced hornets typically includes soft-bodied insects, such as aphids and caterpillars. The adults generally consume liquids, particularly sugars like nectar or juices and pollen, but they do collect insects, chew up the insects and feed them to their larvae.


The bald faced hornet can be found throughout the United States. The habitat is typically found in urban areas with vegetation, forest edges, parks, gardens and meadows. They commonly nest in bushes, trees, rock overhangs and under the eaves of residential homes. The most obvious way to identify the nest of bald faced hornets is the appearance. The nest is constructed from paper-like material that is chewed wood fibers mixed with saliva, resulting in a gray paper looking nest, which is typically suspended from a tree branch or eaves. The nest consists of 3-4 tiers of combs inside the layered outer paper shell. Their nests are large, often times the size of a basketball, but they can be found as large as 3-feet tall.


One of the most concerning problems with bald faced hornets is that when the nest is in jeopardy, they are aggressive and will have no problem attacking. If someone is stung and the stinger is stuck in the affected area, squeezing it during removal may cause more venom to be injected. They are the most active during the day, which makes their presence a risk, especially when curious children get near the nest. As many as 700 workers may live in a single nest, increasing the risk of a sting should someone disturb the nest.


Bald faced hornets are predators that spend their days hunting spiders and insects. They are nectar eaters, so they also play a role in plant pollination. They are highly territorial of the nest and will sting repeatedly if they are provoked. They are social insects that live in large colonies, the queen, workers and drones all have specific tasks for supporting the colony. The queen typically lays hundreds of eggs and the main function of the drones is to fertilize the queen. The queen usually begins building the nest in the spring (a new nest is built each year) and deposits eggs into the chambers within the comb. The larvae are fed by the queen until adulthood.


If stung by a bald faced hornet, the sting will be extremely painful. There is a risk of infection as well as an allergic reaction. If the stung and the stinger is stuck in the affected area, it is important to not squeeze the stinger while removing it, because more venom will be released. The venom can cause an allergic reaction, which can be life-threatening if not treated immediately.


The first sign of an infestation to be aware of is the amount of workers in the nest. In most situations, there may be as many as 100-400 workers around and in the nest and additional ones can be found in bushes, shrubbery and structures that are in or around the nest. The nests are generally extremely large. They often return to the same general area year after year, but build the nest in a different spot.


The best source of prevention against bald faced hornets is with routine inspections and proper pest control treatment. It is beneficial to make sure the bushes and trees near the residence are kept trimmed to avoid overhanging limbs on the roof, which may result in a nest being built near an opening into the house, such as a roof vent. It is extremely important that the nests not be disturbed, because they will sting when threatened. Due to the high risk of damage to the property from their nests and the risk of injury or health due to a sting, it is essential that the removal of bald faced hornets only be done by a professional pest control company. Professionals will have the education, equipment and skills required to effectively address a bald faced hornet problem.


Bald faced hornets can represent a considerable threat to the health and safety of people, particularly when their nests are located in populated areas. This can make it difficult for property owners to fully enjoy outdoor living spaces.

Given the aggressive nature of this insect and that total nest removal is the usually the only reliable control method, a well-trained technician is essential to the effort. A knowledgeable professional understands the behavior of the species and has the specialized equipment that are required to ensure a safe outcome.
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