Bald-faced hornets, aka yellow jackets (Dolichovespula maculata) – and lots of ‘em – are active near the South Cove trail at Radnor Lake… so please beware!
NOTE: The image at right is a photograph of the nest near the South Cove trail at Radnor Lake (Photo: Stephen Frasier; Sunday, July 29, 2012)
As Steve D. [ Steve’s nature photography site ] and I hiked the eastern end of the South Cove trail on Sunday, something out of the ordinary caught my eye. On closer inspection – though we did not stop to examine it (no thanks!) – the gray papery football appeared to be a large nest of yellow jackets (aka hornets).
At first glance, my brain subtly identified the object as a large knot in a tree trunk, located about ten or fifteen feet up the trunk of a 20-year-old (or so) 4”-diameter tree; however, my continued staring revealed the frightening truth.
Based on the images I’ve seen so far, the large, off-white, papery nest at Radnor Lake is indeed most likely probably a home of hornets. The nest is perhaps three or four yards from the hiking trail: Close, but hopefully not too close.
As it turns out, "Mad as a hornet" is a rather accurate expression; bald-faced hornets are apparently among the physically strongest stinging insect encountered by pest control professionals. The hornet is alone among stinging insects in its ability to sting directly through some types of protective clothing – and has even been known to shoot its venom right into the eyes of victims.
Hornets’ nests are entirely exterior, built in trees, shrubs, under decks, and high in the eaves. Hornets construct a “football” or upside-down teardrop-shaped nest from their homemade pulp material that looks like gray paper (a mixture of wood and hornet saliva). Hornets, like wasps and yellow jackets, create the pulpy paper by chewing on tiny bits of wood. Young hornets are hatched and food is stored in the hexagonal (six-sided) cells in the center of the nest.
The bald-faced hornet (Dolichovespula maculate) is a North American stinging insect which is also known as the white-faced hornet or white-tailed hornet. Well-known features of the bald-faced hornet include hanging paper nests and the nasty (but extremely effective) habit of defending their nests with repeated stings to any intruder.
Interesting hornet facts
- Unlike other wasps, hornets will fly after dark — provided there is sufficient light to guide them. Hornets will fly to lighted windows and even buzz around security lights at any hour of the night.
- The bald-faced hornet is among those hornet varieties commonly called "yellow jackets". (Yellow jacket is the common name in North America for predatory wasps of genera Vespula and also genera Dolichovespula.)
- Bees, wasps, and hornets generally do not reuse their nests; new nests are built each year. Old wasp nests usually look old and ratty, perhaps starting to come apart, whereas newly constructed nests appear relatively bright, clean, and tight.
- Most wasps dine on insects; bees generally dine on nectar or pollen.
- A lopsided number of insect stings actually results from yellow jackets, due to their highly aggressive nature.
- Yellow jackets, hornets, and "paper wasps" construct their nests out of paper; other wasps build their nests out of mud. Bees (both honey and bumble) make nests of wax. Certain solitary bees and wasps build their nests in holes in the ground, rotten wood, or natural cavities.
Pictured: A female wasp, though not likely a hornet; the hornet stinger lacks a barb
Resources: Huge bee/wasp nest active near South Cove trail at Radnor Lake
- Common Concerns & Questions About Bees: The Bee Hunter
- Wasp Nest & Hornet Nest Identification – Hampshire Wasp Control
- Bee Nest Identification – Orkin
- Hornets – Wikipedia
- Bald-faced hornets – Wikipedia
- Yellow jackets – Wikipedia
- Dolichovespula (a genus of wasps) – Wikipedia
- Vespula (a genus of wasps) – Wikipedia
- Wasps – Wikipedia
- Bees – Wikipedia
- Hornet – Newspaper
- Eusociality – Wikipedia – This term is used to differentiate the most advanced social activity seen in insects – the very highest level of wasp communication and association. The most familiar examples of eusocial insects include ants, bees, some wasps, and certain termites – all having reproductive queens supported by largely sterile workers.
- Bees, Wasps, and Hornets – Wipeout Pest Control
- Asian Giant Hornets…in America? Zen and the Art of Beekeeping
- World’s Largest Hornet – Ferrebeekeeper
- Hornets – U.K. Safari
- Whacking A Hornet’s Nest – Sound of Cannons
- Numerous photos of hornets’ nests – Petal Photos
- The Bee Hunter FAQ
- Wasp nest ID videos
- Life cycle of the European hornet – Hampshire Wasp Control – One of the more informative and interesting sites on the subject of wasps & hornets
- Wasp and Bee Control – University of Minnesota
- Nuisance Wasps and Bees – Colorado State University
- Asian Giant Hornet: Bad-ass Animals — Largest hornet in the world and a nasty mofo
- Yellowjackets and hornets – University of Florida
In the spring (March to early June), larger-than-normal wasps may be seen out & about. These are probably queen wasps which recently emerged from hibernation and are starting to build their new nests for the season. The queen wasp is slightly larger than a typical worker wasp. From early June and on, the queen wasp remains protected inside the nest, completely serviced by the worker bees. At autumn’s end, these larger wasps may be seen again. It’s likely these are freshly hatched queens emerging from their nests; they have mated (or soon will mate) and will then go into hibernation for the winter.
, (although under exacting circumstances)